This is a re-release of Madison’s 2006 release from Cobblestone Press.
When heiress Victoria Aragon signed up to be sold at her friend’s Bachelorette Auction, she had no idea that a private bidding war would ensue. Who won the date with her remains a mystery and she can only hope the handsome man that’s been watching her with desire in his eyes is one of the interested parties.
Vampire Carter Vaggio hasn’t seen such an intriguing woman in more years than he can count. She is flawless but the for shadows in her eyes. Would that he could erase them as easily as he applies paint to canvas. But like many things in his life, she is fleeting, a brilliant sparkle but for a moment.
Or is she?
Warning: Contains a delectably hot artist, conspiring evil forces, a colorful mosaic of paranormal folk, white hot lust, a sexy Masquerade Ball and a Bachelorette Auction you won’t forget.
“My heavens, that gown is positively gorgeous,” her friend cooed.
“I couldn’t agree more. Valentino is a genius.” Viki Aragon smoothed her hand down the soft fabric.
“He certainly is. Every eye is on you.” Viki looked around the room and saw that Celeste was right.
“Well, I just hope I can help you raise lots of money tonight.”
“You are such a peach. What would I do without you?” Celeste’s face glowed. She was blessed with a peaches and cream complexion. Tonight her hair was a riot of curls piled atop her head with peacock feathers tucked into the bun. Her dress was an incredible concoction of emerald green and royal blue. With the fine detail and embroidery, the dress shimmered and the colors melted to form an electrifying blue-green.
“Let’s pray you never have to find out.” She gave her friend a gentle smile and squeezed her arm.
“Is your grandmother here yet?”
Viki shook her head. “I haven’t seen her yet. I did run into John the Swan though. He’s wearing a lion’s mask, believe it or not.” Viki and her friends had given John Harrison the nickname “John the Swan” because he was always preening and strutting his stuff.
“Yes. I saw him too.”
“What are you two whispering about?” They turned to find James Brody sipping a ghoulishly green martini. Veronica and James had gone to elementary school together, then middle school before his parents had sent him off to some prep school. But somehow they’d always kept in touch. Over the years, he and Viki had become friends as well. And after her sister’s death, he’d become a rock for her to lean on.
“Grandmother and her latest leech.” Viki rolled her eyes.
“Well, don’t look now, but the old bat just walked in,” James said, nodding toward a point behind her.
“I’m not looking,” Viki muttered.
“Viki, Mr. Brody, please excuse me. I see a few people I need to say hello to.”
“K. Let me know if you need any help,” Viki told her.
Celeste gave an anxious smile and rushed off to welcome Thomas Riley, a Manhattan billionaire.
“Why does she always call me Mr. Brody?” James mused.
“Because she likes you.” Viki gave him a knowing smile and linked her arm through his.
“You think so?”
“I do. She’s from Savannah, Georgia, though. I doubt it’ll ever cross her mind to make the first move.”
James turned thoughtful and quiet while he finished his martini. Waiters in penguin suits circulated throughout the room, and he flagged one over, quickly replacing his empty glass with a full one.
“Where’s your mask?”
He patted his pocket.
“Give it here. You’ve got to put it on.”
He grumbled but complied. Just like James, the mask was simple but colorful. A harlequin pattern adorned the paper mache. She slipped it into place, then fixed his hair.
“Better. Have you heard anything about Elizabeth Foster yet?” She was anxious for news of the woman they’d helped escape spousal abuse. Viki was no longer a stranger to abuse. She hadn’t been able to help her sister, but there were many men and women still out there who needed her. Elizabeth Foster was one such person. Viki, along with a group of trusted friends, had formed a network that helped battered women and men escape their relationships. When they had no other way out, Viki helped them disappear and start over. With her inheritance, she’d be able to do more. Right now, she depended on her friends and trusted acquaintances.
“She’s on her way. I wonder how long it’ll take that scumbag to realize she’s missing,” James said.
“Or if he’ll even care.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’ll miss his punching bag,” James said, his tone dry and repulsed.
Elizabeth Foster was married to a corporate lawyer. On the outside, she seemed like a typical trophy wife, but inside she was battered. It was at a charity event very much like tonight’s that Viki had met her. No amount of concealer could hide the nasty bruise under Elizabeth’s eye. And her story about falling in the shower had obviously been fabricated.
But later that night when Viki went to get into her car, she saw a drunken Larry Foster dragging Elizabeth from the elevator. She’d acted on instinct, pasting on a smile and approaching the couple as if they were long time friends. A quick lie about going out for dessert had gotten Elizabeth away from her husband. Later that night in the safety of a hotel room, the other woman had spilled out her heart wrenching story. And Viki had vowed to help her.
A quick call to James and a few other allies had produced a plan to get Elizabeth out of New York. They’d waited for just the right time to act. Today had been D-Day, the day of departure from her old life. Some of the people they helped referred to it as D-Day, the day they took back their destiny.
Either way, by now she was on her way out of the state. Viki prayed that she’d find the life she deserved.
“Thank you, James.” She looked up at him, wishing she could put her appreciation into words.
“No thanks necessary. Now tell me, do you know that guy over there, because he’s been staring at you since I walked in.”
Viki turned slowly, her gaze sweeping the room until it fell on a gorgeous hunk of a man in a stunning black and silver mask. He sat at the far end of the bar, but hadn’t touched his drink. She let her eyes roam over him, taking in each glorious detail. His tux looked expensive and custom made. It hugged him in all the right places. His shoulders could have been chiseled from marble, along with his strong jaw.
Her breath squeezed from her lungs and blood rushed to her head as he stared at her with dark eyes. Were they green or brown? Or maybe a smoky gray. Golden locks of hair peaked out from behind the mask, and she was reminded of the Greek God Adonis. And she would gladly fight both Aphrodite and Persephone for him.
The rest of the world disappeared, and she found herself being drawn to him against her will. Without even moving, they seemed to be closer.
Somewhere behind her, she heard James say “guess not,” but his voice barely registered. He was the center of her universe. His eyes drifted downward very slowly. Her skin flushed under his gaze, and her nipples tightened painfully. She must be going mad because she had the crazy thought that she would give up her whole fortune for one night with him, to know what it felt like to have his lips on hers, his hands on her skin, his fingers caressing her curves. To know his complete possession of her body.
When his gaze met hers again, she knew he could tell what she’d been thinking. His eyes turned darker, telling her he knew everything, wanted everything about her. She took a tentative step toward him.