Sera’s attention wasn’t on the show. While her sire sat beside her in the sumptuous red velvet seats of the dark stalls, her focus fixed on the erotic acts playing out on the stage of Vampirerotique, Sera’s gaze was elsewhere, drawn to a man who had been on her mind since the first time she had set eyes on him over a year ago. He stood to her right at the edge of the theatre near the front row, shadows clinging to him as though they too were drawn to his lethal beauty, his own gaze on the stage. Not once did it stray from the performance—not even when she prayed under her breath every second that it would come to rest on her—and never did the intensity of it lessen. His pale icy eyes scrutinised everything, watching closely, as though he was studying it so he could give a blow-by-blow description of it to someone after it had ended. Perhaps he did. He often disappeared as soon as the show reached its climax with the bloodletting, heading through the double doors that led backstage to an area she could only imagine.
Her sire, Elizabeth, had described it for her a few times but she had always been more interested in learning more about the enigma that was the vampire who ran the theatre.
His name was as exotic as his looks. The deadly combination of lush chocolate brown hair, those intense pale blue eyes and his lithe figure that just screamed he would look like a god naked, was too much for her. The more she saw him, the more she wanted him.
Regardless of the warnings that her sire often whispered in her ear.
“Perhaps I should arrange for a seat closer to him next time?” Elizabeth hissed across at her, amusement ringing in her tone.
Sera tore her eyes away from Antoine, ashamed that she wasn’t watching the show that had cost her sire a pretty penny. Elizabeth had been getting her better seats with each performance and Sera knew that the closer they were to the stage and the action, the more expensive the tickets became. Not only that, but she had paid for Sera’s new outfit of a lacy deep green camisole top that matched her eyes and tight black jeans that showed off her legs to perfection, and the new highlights in her long blonde hair as well as the makeover they had both enjoyed this evening before attending the theatre.
She tried to watch the show, concentrated hard on maintaining her focus on the act playing out on the black stage but she couldn’t take in any of it. Her head swam, unable to keep track of what was happening, focus diverted by the drop-dead-gorgeous man who stood barely twenty feet away from her. She gritted her teeth and frowned, forcing her eyes to follow the performers. It didn’t help.
Seats closer to the stage just meant closer to Antoine, presenting her with a much better view of him. A view she didn’t want to squander.
Her gaze drifted back to him as though he had his own gravity and she was powerless against its pull. He stood side on to her, his tailored black trousers and crisp charcoal shirt accentuating his figure, igniting her imagination. It raced to picture him naked. Long legs and powerful thighs. Firm buttocks with sexy dimples above them. A lean muscled back that followed the sensual curve of his spine and flowed into strong shoulders that would be a pleasure to study as he moved. And finally, a chiselled torso blessed with rope after rope of honed muscles down his stomach and a chest that would feel solid beneath her cheek and palm as he held her protectively in his embrace.
Elizabeth giggled, the sound so out of place during the intense erotic performance that the dark-haired man in front of them looked over his shoulder and frowned.
“You don’t want to get involved with him. It wouldn’t end well,” Elizabeth said.
Sera wished that her sire had waited for the man to turn away before saying that. Now he was frowning at them both, dark eyebrows drawn tight above red eyes.
Elizabeth dismissively waved her hand, long scarlet nails catching the bright colourful lights that illuminated the stage. “I’m not talking about you. You’ll miss one of the best bits.”
The man’s frown hardened but he turned back to the show. Elizabeth swept her wavy dark red hair over her shoulder and returned her attention to the performance too. Sera fidgeted on her seat when she caught a glimpse of the man on stage. Victor. Elizabeth had worked with him during her time at the London theatre. He had been with Vampirerotique since a few years after it had opened a century ago and was their star performer. The large brunet male was currently pumping a woman in centre stage, his fangs enormous as he growled and fucked her side on to the audience so they could witness the whole act. The petite brunette bent over in front of him was moaning with each deep plunge of his cock, her hands grasping her knees and breasts swinging in time with his powerful thrusts. Two other men were pleasuring human females a short distance from him. The men sat on the red velvet gold-framed couches, one on each, flanking Victor where he stood close to the front of the black stage. The human females under the thrall of the other two vampires were facing the audience, kneeling astride the one who controlled them, bouncing on his cock and groaning as they palmed their breasts. Sera looked away, cheeks burning.
Elizabeth leaned towards her. “Besides, he’s as frigid as a nun and as cold as ice. In the fifty years that I worked for him, I never once saw him with a woman. The only person he loves is his messed up brother, and that’s one relationship you don’t want to interfere with.”
Sera had heard the warnings so many times now that they were losing their effect. Every time Elizabeth brought her to the theatre to watch a performance, she reiterated the long list of reasons why Sera shouldn’t want Antoine. Unfortunately, those warnings only made her want him even more. According to Elizabeth, the gorgeous male vampire had been alone for God only knew how long. Sera wanted to be the woman to smash his armour and tear down his defences, and end his loneliness.
If he was lonely.
Her gaze slid back to Antoine. He stood rod straight, posture perfect, shoulders tipped back as he continued to study the performance. The first few times she had seen him, she hadn’t thought to ask her sire about him. She had thought he was just one of the crowd stretching his legs. When Elizabeth had noticed her staring, she had told her that he was one of the owners of the theatre, and an aristocrat vampire. That had explained the tilt of his chin and the air of pride he wore, and perhaps even the coldness that settled on his face at times when he was greeting the more important guests before the show started.
He was so distant, even looked miles away as he studied the show, lost in thoughts that she wanted to know.
Elizabeth nudged her and she looked back at the stage, trying to keep her eyes off Antoine. If she couldn’t recount at least half of what had happened, Elizabeth would give her an earful on their way back to the city centre apartment they shared.
Things were heating up on stage. Victor had finished with his vampire female and was now toying with one of the humans, a young redhead with full breasts. The blond male vampire that had been with the female on the couch was with them, kissing her as Victor stood behind her, palming her breasts and rubbing himself against her backside. The blond male looked into her eyes and she turned obediently in his arms, coming to face Victor. She stared at him. Or beyond him. Her glassy expression said that the male now behind her wasn’t lessening any of his control just yet. It felt so wrong to watch a woman under the power of a vampire, unable to do anything to disobey her temporary master, but she couldn’t deny that it turned her on a little. The woman wouldn’t know any discomfort or panic. She was so deep under that she was probably experiencing the purest hit of pleasure she had ever had. Exactly what she had signed on for.
Elizabeth had let Sera in on a secret. Apparently, all of the humans who participated in the shows had agreed to the erotic acts in exchange for a rather handsome amount of money. Elizabeth said it hadn’t always been that way, but modern times called for a modern approach, and it was far easier not to kill them. The humans knew they would be participating in an on-stage orgy for an audience, and most of them had done such acts before, they just didn’t know what they shared that stage with. Vampires. That meant they also didn’t know they would be doing things under hypnosis.
Not that many of the humans required hypnosis to make them fully participate. The blond male vampire had lessened his control over the redheaded female human bent over in front of him, letting her desire rule her instead, and she was moaning and writhing against him, rubbing herself against his long hard cock.
Sera stared, cheeks heating, as he slowly inched his erection into her body and Victor stepped up in front of the woman. She reached for his rigid cock and closed her eyes as she wrapped her lips around his full length, swallowing him each time he thrust into her mouth. The man behind her pumped her at the same pace, drawn out and deep, slow enough that the audience was twitching for more.
Sera stared at the blond male, imagining Antoine behind her like that, his face a picture of pleasure as he slid in and out with long deep strokes.
Her gaze shot back to the man of her fantasy and she found he was still staring at the stage with the usual detached look on his face, as though the sight of two men on one woman didn’t arouse him in the slightest. She supposed that he had probably seen enough shows that he was immune to their effect now.
A few impatient growls erupted through the theatre and he flicked a glance over the audience and then went back to watching the show.
Sera had tried to talk to him once, when he had passed her by after the show had ended with the feeding and the crowd were leaving. He had blanked her. He hadn’t even glanced her way. He had walked straight past her as though she didn’t exist. She had spoken loudly enough that he must have heard her. It was after that moment that Elizabeth had started with the warnings, revealing only a tantalising amount of information about the powerful handsome aristocrat, just enough to make Sera want him even more.
Now, she craved his eyes on her, wanted to hear him speak and know his voice at last, and above all, she wanted to look up into his eyes and try to see past the barriers around his heart so she could understand him. Was his distance from everyone just because he was an aristocrat, or was there more to it than that?
A shriek from the stage melted into a moan of pleasure and the smell of human blood spilled through the air, encompassing her. Antoine visibly tensed, his arms flexing beneath his charcoal tailored shirt, as though he had clenched his fists. His pale eyes darkened, changed just as hers did to reveal her true nature. He turned away and she feared he would leave earlier than usual and her chance would slip by once again.
She tugged on Elizabeth’s arm and her sire sighed, rose to her feet, briefly applauded and then started along the row with her trailing behind. Her legs bumped several vampires who were still trying to watch the final act, absorbing the scent and the thrill of bloodshed. She didn’t care for it herself. More important matters needed her attention.
The men and women she passed snarled at her, baring their fangs in her direction and leaning to one side in an attempt to see past her. She muttered her apologies, trying to move quickly so they didn’t attack her. Elizabeth made that impossible. She moved slowly and with grace in her long scarlet dress, her head held high and no apologies leaving her lips. Her sire was old enough to stand against these vampires should they choose to attack but Sera wasn’t. It would be years before she had the strength of her sire. They reached the last person and broke out onto the wide strip of red carpet that lined the edge of the theatre.
“Antoine,” Elizabeth called and he paused and swung back to face her.
Sera’s heart almost stopped when his deep crimson gaze briefly flickered to her before returning to her sire.
Her nerves rose as he strolled up the incline to meet Elizabeth and Sera slowed, the gap between her and Elizabeth growing larger by the second. What was she doing? It had taken months for her to convince her sire to do this for her and now that she had finally agreed, her nerve was going to fail? She wanted this man’s eyes on her, wanted to be alone with him, and the only way to get what she wanted was to get a job at the theatre.
If she made it past the interview, then Antoine would have to meet with her. Elizabeth had said that he spoke with each new performer to ensure they were suitable for the theatre. Sera just had to get the interview out of the way and then she would have the chance she wanted. Once they were alone in his office, she would take a shot at convincing Antoine that she was the woman for him. Whatever the outcome of that meeting was, she would quit her role as a performer. She didn’t intend to perform at the theatre. Hell, no. She didn’t have the right sort of personality for that. She wanted to blush whenever she chanced a glance at the black and red stage set and saw what the couples on it were doing. If it weren’t for Antoine’s presence in the theatre and her sire’s insistence that they have a little fun, she would never come to such a place.
“Callum,” a deep male voice called out, sharp with authority, and Sera stopped dead. Sweet mercy, Antoine had a voice that could tame even the wildest of angels. That voice was a drug. It went straight into her heart and raced through her veins, the effect sweeter than any amount of blood.
Sera turned towards her sire and Antoine, only to see that he was walking away, leaving her sire with another dark-haired man. He was handsome, full of smiles as he spoke to Elizabeth, far warmer and more amiable than Antoine was but nowhere near as alluring. Elizabeth signalled her to join them and she did, moving past the vampires now spilling out of the stalls and watching Antoine leave at the same time. She’d had a chance to meet him and she had blown it. If she had only kept up with her sire, she would have been close to him, maybe would have caught his attention this time and had his eyes on her at last.
“Is this her?” the vampire called Callum said and ran a glance over her. Sera kept still, feeling as though she was for sale as he moved around her, his eyes on her body, inspecting and scrutinising every inch. He came back to stand before her and looked at Elizabeth. “The summer season will end soon so we’ll have time to train her before the winter one begins but we need someone with natural talent. Does she have what it takes?”
Sera opened her mouth to speak but Elizabeth beat her to it.
“Absolutely. She’s my child, Cal. It’s all in the blood.” Elizabeth smiled broadly at him, red lips curving perfectly. Her deep brown eyes shone with warmth and she swept her dark red hair over her shoulders, exposing their bare curves. “You know I am one of your best ever performers.”
Callum nodded and the longer lengths of his cropped black hair fell down over one emerald green eye. He frowned and raked it back, and then ran a hand around the nape of his neck, drawing Sera’s eyes to a set of dark marks on it. A bite mark. It looked deep and fresh too, no more than a night or two old. Did he have a lover?
He looked at her again and Sera’s gaze leapt to his. She swallowed the desire to confess that her sire was lying and she had no natural talent for the sort of thing that he was talking about. She smiled instead, trying to look every bit as seductive as her sire. Elizabeth had been Vampirerotique’s star female performer until she had decided to quit her job and return to her family instead. They had met shortly after that, and Elizabeth had turned her into a vampire. That was thirty years ago now. It had taken Sera most of those years to become accustomed to life as a vampire.
“Come by tomorrow night when we’re closed,” Callum said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
“Thank you,” Sera said and he smiled at her, nodded, and then disappeared into the crowd.
Their excited chatter filled the theatre, the people passing her by discussing the show and the finale. Other elite vampires were still in their seats, enjoying the lingering scent of blood and sharing an intimate moment of their own with their partners. Sometimes the kissing that happened post-performance in the stalls was more erotic than what occurred on stage. Sera dragged her gaze away from one couple near the front who were going at it with wild abandon. They looked as though they wouldn’t make it out of the theatre before they succumbed to their desire and took things a step further.
She glanced out of the corner of her eye at Elizabeth. “Does Callum have a lover?”
“I thought you had set your sights on Antoine?” Elizabeth laughed when she blushed and then her expression darkened. “A wife... and I’ve heard rumours that she’s a werewolf.”
A werewolf? Sera had expected the owners of an erotic theatre to be quite liberal and wild, but marrying a werewolf? She definitely hadn’t expected that one.
“You’re serious?” She never could tell with her sire. The woman enjoyed a joke more than was natural. Sera supposed that you needed to have an easygoing attitude when you chose to spend fifty years participating in an on-stage orgy with people you hardly knew.
Her stomach turned.
Thank the Devil she wouldn’t have to do such a thing to get her chance to speak with Antoine. Just an interview that she would ace thanks to her sire’s tuition and then she would be in his office, alone with him. Just the thought stirred heat in her veins. Since her sire had agreed to help her, she had spent every night trying to figure out how to win Antoine. It wasn’t going to be easy. She knew that much. She’d had lovers in her human life and even in her vampire one, but she had never pursued a man before, not as she intended to with Antoine.
Elizabeth had laughed when she had confessed that and had told her that she should probably start with easier prey and work her way up to someone like Antoine. That gave her the feeling that she was going to fail. What sort of woman would he desire? He ran an erotic theatre and watched the beautiful women performing on his stage without the barest hint of desire in his expression. If they couldn’t arouse him, what hope did she have?
Maybe he wasn’t interested in women who worked at his theatre. If that was the case, was she only shooting down what slim chance she had with him by interviewing for a position as a performer?
“I need a drink, and you look as though you could use one too.” Elizabeth grasped her wrist and tugged her towards the exit at the back of the theatre. “Come along, my pupil. You have a lot to learn before tomorrow night if you’re going to have a snowball’s chance in Hell of impressing that man.”
Sera trudged along behind her sire, weaving through the lingering crowd. Elizabeth’s warnings rang in her ears, one louder than the rest. She glanced up at the three storeys of elegant boxes that lined the theatre. The gold on the carvings decorating the curved cream low walls that edged the private boxes reflected the warm lights that illuminated the heavy red velvet curtain now closed across the stage. Matching curtains hung at the back of the boxes, some of them open now that the performance had ended. Many of the boxes were empty but beautifully dressed ladies and gentlemen still occupied the others.
She spotted Antoine amongst a group in one of the boxes on the first tier. He was smiling. She had never seen him smile. It looked forced to her. Hollow. Even among his own kind, he was still distant, his eyes devoid of emotion as he put on a grand performance of his own.
Sera wasn’t going to overcome the challenge of winning Antoine’s heart just by meeting the man.
First, she had to break through a barrier that was beginning to look impenetrable.
He was an aristocrat, and an old one at that. Although he looked barely a day over thirty-five, he was in fact over a thousand years old. His brother, Snow, was almost twice his age.
Sera was an elite.
To an aristocrat, she was some sort of filth they scraped off their shoes and nothing made that clearer than the theatres. The aristocrats sat in their boxes, looking down on the elite gathered in the stalls, separated and distant from those they saw as commoners and mongrels.
That disdain for her kind was the reason why Antoine looked so glacial whenever he had to greet the more important members of the elite, and why he had failed to hear her when she had tried to speak with him. He wanted nothing to do with the elite vampires outside the small circle that were part of the theatre. He would certainly want nothing to do with her. Not only was she an elite, but she was a turned human. She was the bottom rung of the social ladder and he was the top. The elite that he deemed worthy of a moment of his time, that he greeted with gritted teeth in order to maintain good relations with her kind, were all born as vampires into families that had turned humans within their ranks. None of them were turned humans themselves.
Even Elizabeth was born of a vampire father and turned mother.
If Sera wanted to shatter Antoine’s armour, she would have to convince him to see beyond the fact that she was a turned human.
Elizabeth had taught her a few things, weapons that she hadn’t held in her arsenal before, but she wasn’t sure if she was brave enough to risk using them on Antoine.
Could she do what Elizabeth had said it would take to shatter his defences?
Could she really seduce such a powerful man?
Sera curled her fingers into tight fists and stared at him. He paused in the middle of saying something to the aristocrat vampires in the box with him, slowly turned towards her and then lowered his eyes. They locked on her. He had felt her watching him. Her heart beat harder, thumping against her chest as her blood heated, but she held his gaze across the theatre stalls, refusing to back down.
The next time she saw him, she would be alone with him.
And she would seduce him.