Under Her Skin – Extract

I knew Kristina and Portia were doing modernish takes on the vampire tale – so I decided to go more traditional. I didn’t want to write a historical but I did want all the traditional vampire thrills. Castles. Dungeons. Victorian Gothic. Mystery. Influences like The Turn of Screw, The Mysteries of Udolpho, Northanger Abbey and Rebecca.

I wanted a virginal innocent but resolutely plucky girl in peril. A super-sinister super-sexy vampire. And I wanted a pure gothic flurry of bloody castle walls and the snick of razor blades.

Under Her Skin takes place in the same paranormal universe as my Silver Werewolf books. Merle Cobalt is the daughter of the self-styled greatest vampire hunters in the world – still notorious twenty five years after their greatest coup: capturing the dangerous renegade human-hating vampire Darius Cole. Cole was handed over to the vampires themselves to face justice after his preaching of the outlawed vampire creed of Righteous Power – overthrowing humans and taking the world back for vampire kind.

But the Black Emeralds did not kill Cole – they sentenced him to live. To live his immortal life forever with no hope of joy or comfort in the dank dungeons of their castle. But now – somehow – Cole has escaped.

Cole’s revenge is simple. Merle. He demands that Merle come and spend twenty five days with him in The Black Emerald Clan’s castle. The same castle he was imprisoned in for twenty five years. This is the only way Merle can get hold of the antidote to the slow acting poison Cole has administered to her father.

Of course she agrees, and soon finds herself locked in Cole’s own cell in the Black Emerald Castle dungeon.

Merle looks around the little dark cell where she’s sitting. 25 years. It’s impossible to imagine. The solitary confinement, the starvation. The chains had started to hurt her wrists after less than a day. What would this have felt like after twenty five years?

‘Now you see how hard they had to work to break me?’

‘Darius?’

‘Hello Merle.’

She looks up and he’s standing right there. Looming. His hair and clothes and eyes so dark in the gloom of the cell that his white skin seems to glow. She has to force her eyes away from his mesmerising face. But when she lowers her eyeline, she finds the dark fabric of his crotch is right in front of her.

So it’s a relief when Darius drops into a crouch and smiles earnestly. ‘You see what they did to me? Do you understand? Forced me to turn traitor. Made me renounce a set of beliefs they’d invented for me. Public humiliation. Sentenced to live. They did everything they could think of to make me suffer. Everything vicious and cruel. They wanted me to suffer forever. Why do you think they were so scared of me?’

His face is so elegantly pretty and perfectly nasty. She hates him. She knows she needs to keep remembering that. She takes a sharp breath and narrows her eyes. ‘Because you were a murdering bastard. Because you are a murdering bastard. You’re killing my father right now.’

‘I know. It’s very hard for me that that was what I had to do. I am sorry. Even after everything Charles Cobalt helped to do to me I know that know he is just a weakened old man now. I wish there had been another way.’

‘There is. Let me go. Give me the antidote and leave them alone.’

‘Leave them alone? Maybe I could do that. But leave you alone? Never.’

Again, she has to force herself to look away from him. She looks down at her dirty jeans. ‘Why? What do you want with me if it isn’t about them?’ She pauses as a nasty thought catches her by surprise. ‘I’m not a, not a virgin or anything. If it’s that. If that’s what you want. Well, I’m not.’ And that’s it – thinking about Cole wanting to take her virginity, which means thinking about him having sex with her – she’s blushing. Hard. She hates the way her skin always betrays her at the most crucial moments. She tries to slow her breathing – an anti-blushing technique she read in a magazine once – but it’s no use. Her face is getting hotter and hotter. And that just embarrasses her even more.

Suddenly – moving quick and sharp – Cole reaches out and catches hold of her chin. He runs the pad of his thumb slowly over her heated cheek. When he speaks his voice is slightly thick. He’s very clearly and very suddenly aroused. Not bothering to try and hide it. ‘God, oh. I love that you do that.’

She tries to pull away, but his grip on her is incredibly strong. ‘Do what? Don’t. Stop it.’ She puts one palm flat on his chest in an attempt to push him away.

But he doesn’t seem to really notice her protests. He strokes her cheek again, mesmerised. His touch is deliciously cool where she feels most heated. His voice is dark, slow and heavy. ‘I love that you blush. It means I can see your blood. Under your skin. Do you blush anywhere else? Let me see. I want to see you. So beautiful. I want to see your skin, your pink.’ He shoves her and she’s forced back hard against the wall. He traps her there with his body and starts pulling at her T shirt, yanking it up.

‘No! No! Stop.’ Somehow she wrenches herself out of his grip and pulls her shirt back down.

Cole meets her eyes and seems to suddenly hear what she’s saying. He takes his hands off her and stands up, taking a couple of stumbling steps backwards. He’s shaking his head. ‘Oh god, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Your blood, it made me…’ he says, backing away from her. ‘It’s just so difficult to… Oh.’

He bites his plump bottom lip and turns away.

She wants to tell him to wait, but she forces herself not to by scratching at the sore patches the chains made on her wrists.

*

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