Vampire's Touch by Susan Griscom

Will his uncontrollable desire for her sabotage his efforts in keeping her alive?

Iris hates knowing what people are thinking all the time. As if that weren’t bad enough, that so-called gift has led to being a guinea pig for a prominent doctor’s wild experiments. When she finally escapes his clutches, she lands in the office of one Langdon Fox, a wealthy, influential, and downright handsome vampire who offers to keep her safe.

Footsteps clicked across the hardwood floor and stopped in front of the desk. The tips of a man’s leather shoes almost jabbed me in the thigh. I made my breath as shallow as possible and watched the expensive shoes turn away from my hiding place. One crossed over the other, giving me the impression of him leaning his backside against the desk.

“No, Damian.” The sudden sound of his voice startled me until I realized he was talking on the phone. “It went well. Most of the guests are gone now except for a few die-hard stragglers, and I’m sure we’ve reached our goal tonight. I’ve stepped into my office to check the figures.”

His office?

During the next few seconds of silence, I was certain he could hear my heartbeat while I assumed he was listening to the person on the other end of the line. To help quiet my nervous breathing, I nibbled at a hang nail on my forefinger. I didn’t normally bite my nails. But lately, normal wasn’t part of my day-to-day routine and bi-weekly manicures were a thing of the past.

“I know you’re excited,” the man went on, “but please try to contain yourself. This must remain between us.”

My ears perked up. I pulled my finger away from my mouth and listened with more interest.

“I only confided in you because I’ll need your help … No, I’ve only recently acquired my patronage with the Ouroboros Society. Of course, I don’t have a Chosen yet. These things take time. That’s not how it works. Yes, as we discussed, the decision is mine when I think there is someone worthy.”

He laughed like a kid who had just advanced to the next level in his favorite video game, and I thought about Rory, the nine-year-old boy I’d had a crush on back when life was normal. Back before the thoughts of others could invade my mind. Rory lived next door, though a year older than me, he didn’t mind hanging out once in a while playing Super Mario 3D World. He always beat me and he would laugh in a teasing way, but never mocking.

I heard pages flipping quickly, and I imagined the man skimming sheets of a notebook or maybe a calendar. “Ha-ha, you do have a way with words, Damian. I’m sure she won’t be butt ugly, as you put it. Though I do agree with you, women of that standard do tend to be … No, I wasn’t going to say homely, let’s just say less fortunate and maybe not as well pruned or sophisticated as most of the women who travel in the more influential circles that you’re used to.”

Was this guy serious? Not as well pruned? What did that mean? Was he talking about women or bushes? What a xenophobic ass.

And what was the Ouroboros Society, and what was a Chosen?

“You’re young still, so I’ll forgive your judgmental presumptions. I believe all women should be treated with the utmost respect and as our equals.”

Hmmm … maybe this guy wasn’t an ass after all.  

My leg started to cramp, and I shifted to ease the pain. But when I moved, a blue cheese stuffed olive escaped from the napkin and rolled out from under the desk. I froze and stopped breathing as it traveled out to the tip of one of his shoes and stopped.

I considered reaching for it, but the man would surely see my hand. Maybe he wouldn’t notice the olive.

Don’t look down. Don’t look down.

“It’s possible that it could be months before …” He paused.

Oh no.

He planted both feet on the floor and turned toward the desk. “I have to go now.”

His footsteps came around the desk, stopping where I sat. An Olympic-sized barbell sank to the bottom of my stomach, pulverizing the cheese and crackers into a sludge that threatened to come back up. I squirmed against the wood, wishing I could somehow flatten myself into it to make myself invisible. Even if I could, the thumping of my heart would surely give me away.

Thurump—Thurump.

Thurump—Thurump.

I placed my hand over my heart. It was pounding so hard in my chest I was sure it would punch a hole through my breast. He rolled the chair aside, and his face appeared before me. His expression shifted from what-the-hell shock to who-the-hell-are-you friendly fascination.

But I didn’t think I should trust that friendly fascination. I wanted to get up and run from the room, but there was no way out except through him.

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