Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Laurell K. Hamilton in the first novel of an erotic, action-packed supernatural romance trilogy starring a Vegas beauty who specializes in dispatching Sin City's resident bloodsuckers. Original.
JUST ANOTHER NIGHT IN SIN CITY Candace Steele is as tough as she is alluring. For her, killing vampires isn't just a job-it's personal: She's still haunted by erotic memories of an all-consuming affair with Ash, a seductive vampire who thrilled her-and then nearly destroyed her. Now, working undercover in a Las Vegas casino, she seduces the most powerful undead-right before she drives a stake through their unbeating hearts. When hot-ticket singer Temptation McCoy sweeps into town for a major concert, Candace is tapped for security. But after meeting Temptation, Candace feels the cold, tingling sensation that can mean only one thing: There's a vampire in the diva's entourage. To complicate matters, Ash suddenly appears in Sin City, vowing to do anything and everything to draw Candace back into his arms. Overwhelmed by desire and suspicion, she lets down her guard . . . a move that could cost Candace her life.
Cameron Dean enjoyed a successful career as an actress in regional repertory theater before turning her hand to writing. She is also the author of Passionate Thirst and Luscious Craving. Cameron lives with her husband and assorted felines in Seattle.
"From the Paperback edition."
One Three months later I was on fire. Blood pounded in my ears. My breath came in shallow gasps, panting in and out. Hands were racing across my bare skin, rough and gentle all at once. I let my body arch to meet them. Up, I thought. Take me up. Drive me to the brink and send me straight over the edge. He knew how. I knew that much. Blindly, my fingers sought his face, and brought his mouth to mine. The kiss was sure and deep, potent as a drug. I let my fingers roam down his body and felt his urgency increase. Now, I thought. I want you inside me now. Don''t wait. Don''t stop. A strange, wild keening filled the room. I heard my lover give a grunt. He lifted his head, shaking it as if to clear it. The sound continued, piercing as a siren. Which, as it happens, is exactly what it was. Just my luck. I was in bed with the only guy in Las Vegas who downloads police sirens as ring tones for his cell phone. His most recent acquisition: one that sounded like those sirens you hear in French films. High low. High low. High low. Very sexy on the screen. Not so sexy in real life--particularly when sex was the thing that was getting interrupted. "Dammit!" Detective Carl Hagen said. He drove his fist against the wall behind my head with more than a little force. He looked down at me, his dark eyes narrowed. "Hold that thought. In fact, hold that position. Move so much as an inch and I''ll be forced to cuff you." In spite of the way my entire body was screaming in protest, I managed a laugh. "Promises, promises." He gave a snort of what might have been amusement, then rolled toward the edge of the bed, reaching for the still wailing phone. As he sat up I saw him wince as he flexed the fingers of his right hand. "Ow." "That''s what you get for resorting to violence," I remarked. "Keep it up, Steele," he said over his shoulder. "See what it gets you." He flipped the phone open and the siren cut off. "Hagen," he rapped out. I watched in silence as the transformation took place. One moment, I had been in bed with a man. Now, I was in bed with a cop. Carl''s entire body went on alert, seemed to listen, as if he could absorb information through the pores of his skin. When he tucked the phone against his shoulder and reached for the pen and pad of paper on the bedside table, I sat up. I know serious business when I see it. Homicide detectives don''t get all that many happy calls in the middle of the night. "Give me the address," he said, and began to write. As always, his movements were economical, precise. I don''t think I''ve ever known anyone quite as spare, as direct, as Carl. Absolutely no effort is wasted. Though he can circle around it if he has to, he always has the point in sight. It''s what makes him so good at his job, to say nothing of certain other things. I pulled my knees up and rested my chin against them, watching him work. We were an unusual couple, no two ways about it. Detective Carl Hagen and I became acquainted several months ago, under less than romantic circumstances, when I was questioned in the disappearance of a man named Nathan Lawlor. Though the homicide division was called in, they bowed out in the end, mostly because nobody could actually produce any evidence of foul play, let alone a body. Nate Lawlor had simply vanished into thin air, which is essentially what happens when a vam- pire gets staked. The police, backtracking Lawlor''s steps, discovered that he had spent his last evening at the Scheherazade. A number of staff members had been questioned, including Marlene and me. When my turn came, I told as much of the truth as possible. Yes, I had waited on Nate, known he had big winnings. Yes, I had found him attractive, so much so that I broke my own personal rule and let him take me home. But he had been as alive when I left him as he was when I arrived, I informed the police. As to his present whereabouts, I knew absolutely nothing. That also happens to be the truth. Even vampire experts haven''t devoted a lot of time to where vamps go once the undead part of their existence comes to an end. My personal opinion, also my fervent hope, is that they occupy the lowest, most uncomfortable ring of Hell. Since I was the last person to see Nate alive, I was initially considered a suspect. Fortunately, all my coworkers at the Sher backed me up--Marlene, in particular. I think she felt guilty for having encouraged me to go for the gusto in the first place. The investigation into Nathan Lawlor''s disappearance stalled. Everything about his life was precisely where he had left it. The only thing missing was Nate Lawlor himself. He was gone. But the attraction the homicide detective and I had carefully sidestepped during our interviews stuck around. About a week after the case was officially considered cold, Carl Hagen strolled through the doors of the Sher and into my life. Closing his cell phone with an audible snap, he turned back to face me. "You moved," he remarked. His tone was joking, but I could see the way the weariness had risen in his eyes. I knew it had nothing to do with the time of night. "You started it," I came right back. I scooted forward to wrap my arms around his waist. "And besides, you have to go." "I do," he confirmed with a sigh. He leaned in for a long, sweet kiss then rested his forehead against mine. "The timing sucks. I''m sorry." "That makes two of us," I said, but I gave him a smile. He eased back, and I saw the tiny crease running down between his brows and knew what it meant. "You''re going to be a while, aren''t you?" "Looks that way." "Then I''ll head out when you do," I said briskly, swinging my legs off the side of the bed, careful to keep my tone light. "Al wants to see me in his office, first thing. Apparently I''m being given some special assignment with regards to Temptation McCoy." Temptation was the current hot pop diva, and in just a few days'' time she would become the newest headliner at the Scheherazade. Carl gave a low whistle. "Bet every security guy''s nose is out of joint." "You think it''s just their noses?" I asked sweetly. Carl gave a snort. "Anyhow," I said as I stood up. "I might as well head out when you do. I show up late, Al''s never going to let me hear the end of it." Al Manelli is my boss, head of security for the Sher. The truth is, cocktail waitressing is just a cover. I actually work casino security, a thing Carl discovered when he ran a standard background check. The thing that''s not standard, and that the check didn''t reveal, would be the thing that only Al and I and my best friend, Bibi Schwartz, know. I have a special area of expertise: rousting vampires. It may or may not come as a surprise that Vegas is home to a thriving vampire community, always assuming that something not living can actually be said to thrive. Vamps love Vegas for the same reason humans do: the excitement. Even if you''re undead, Vegas can make you feel alive. Add to that the fact that there''s an influx of fresh faces, fresh blood, every single day of the week, and you pretty much have vampire paradise. Though, as it turns out, there are very strict rules governing the consumption of human blood. Only the vamps at the very top of the food chain get to drink blood from live humans. Lower-echelon vampires make do with animals and the dead. Too much bloodletting tends to produce unfortunate results, such as a shortage of humans and an overabundance of vampires. "You''re sure?" Carl said now, in response to my suggestion that we depart at the same time. "You don''t mind?" "That you have to go, yes," I said, moving to the overstuffed chair on the far side of the room where I had draped my clothes. "That I do, no." I shimmied into my underwear then reached for my bra. "It''ll be easier to get up early if I start from home." Every relationship has its own rules. Carl and I had established ours early on. Each of us recognizes and respects the privacy required for the other''s work, and sleepovers are strictly invitation only. I don''t stay at Carl''s place if he''s not there, and he doesn''t stay at mine. They were my rules just as much as they were his. Still, I could tell he felt a little awkward about booting me out in the middle of the night. "So that works out all right, then," he said, but he was frowning. "Carl." I yanked up my jeans, fastened them, then pulled a turtleneck over my head. "It''s fine." I crossed to where he still sat, buck naked, at the edge of the bed, stepped between his legs, and leaned down for a quick kiss. "Much as I love a man out of uniform, I think you''re going to want to put something on." "Jesus, you''re a pain in the ass, Steele," he said, but I could see my tactic had worked. The frown was gone. "Remind me again. Why do I put up with you?" I stepped back and turned away, giving the ass in question a provocative little shake. He gave a bark of laughter, got to his feet, and strode over to a chest of drawers. He pulled on a pair of boxers and a T-shirt. He didn''t say a word, but I could see that he was no longer smiling. "How bad is it?" I asked as he continued dressing. I sat down in the overstuffed chair and pulled my boots on. I was skirting the edges of forbidden territory and we both knew it. What the hell. The worst he could do was tell me to back off. Carl was silent as he slid a brown leather belt through the loops of a pair of fade