Forks, Texas was a long way from Hollywood.
Grace’s boss, up-and-coming director/producer Naomi Wei, had informed
her the name of the town was “North Fork” back in the thirties.
Why they changed the North to Two was anybody’s guess. Maybe so
visitors would think they’d actually find someone to eat with
in this deadsville burg.
Grace grinned to herself as she turned the two-tone, pink-and-cream
Plymouth Fury off the minuscule main drag. The urge to floor the V-8
past the Dairy Queen was almost irresistible. Although Miss Wei had
disappointed Grace by not buying a convertible, Grace had once pushed
the boatlike car to an impressive 120 miles per hour.
Miss Wei might be eccentric, but she knew her horsepower.
The road Grace had turned into wasn’t as well paved as the two
lane that cut through town. As sprays of gravel hit the custom white-walls,
Grace’s employer stirred sleepily in the passenger seat. Because
Miss Wei had been anxious to reach their destination, they’d gotten
an earlier start than usual for them: at least an hour before dusk.
Miss Wei had immediately sunk into a doze, bundled like Greta Garbo
in her long powder blue silk scarf and her glamorous cat’s-eye
“Thank God,” she said now, tipping up the glasses to take
in the lollipop red shards of sunset that were melting on the horizon.
Miss Wei was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a day person.
“We’re close,” Grace told her, as always enjoying
the moment when her boss woke up. From their first encounter in the
greasy spoon where Grace had been waitressing, she’d liked Miss
Wei’s company—in large part because she was the sort of
take-charge woman Grace wanted to be someday. “The cat at the
Texaco said the Durand ranch is a mile west on the turnoff.”
“The cat?” Miss Wei repeated, her perfectly painted mouth
pursing with her smile.
Grace never got over how youthful her employer looked—her face
unlined, her figure trim—and never mind she claimed to be old
enough to be Grace’s mother.
“Cat is what the kids say,” Grace informed her.
Miss Wei laughed softly. “As if you weren’t a kid yourself.”
Grace’s fingers tightened on the white steering wheel. At twenty-four
and counting, she was hardly that. Sometimes she felt as if the sands
in her hourglass were perpetually running out.
“Fine,” Miss Wei teased with her uncanny ability to read
expressions. “You’re a woman of immense maturity and intelligence.
Why else would I hire you?”
“Because I work for peanuts?”
“As I recall, I gave you a raise last week.”
Because she had, Grace smiled to herself. The increase in pay had been
“I’m worth it,” she said blithely.
“You might be,” Miss Wei conceded in the same airy tone.
She seemed happy tonight, her short hair ruffling in the wind from the
open window, her dark eyes sparkling for the challenge in front of them.
Filmmaking might be difficult for women, but the “old boys”
at the studios never intimidated her.
“You’re sure Mr. Durand is expecting us?” Grace asked.
“If he’s not, he should be,” Miss Wei answered, which
wasn’t exactly a yes.
But it was too late to worry, because the Durand Ranch’s wooden
gate arched over the road ahead like an image from a John Ford Western.
The ground here was dusty. Flat as a pancake, too, with scruffy looking
grass a herd of dieting cattle could have starved on. An oil derrick
poked up in the distance, black as night against the still faintly rosy
sky. Its presence suggested Mr. Durand could afford extra feed for his
“Longhorns,” Miss Wei said. “Christian raises Longhorn
cattle. He’s one of the last holdouts.
They’re hardy,” she added when Grace lifted her brows at
her. “Shorthorns and Herefords need too much pampering out here.”
“I didn’t know you were interested in ranching.”
“I’m not. But it pays to know your quarry.”
Slowing as they got closer—because who knew if this Texas boy
kept shotguns—Grace pointed the car toward a low-slung adobe house.
“Try the barns,” Miss Wei corrected. “Unless I miss
my guess, Christian is in that one over there.”
The barns were a collection of worn-looking plank buildings. Grace parked
in the rutted dirt beside the one Miss Wei had waved her arm at. Grace
was wearing flats for driving, but her soles still sank into the dry
earth as she got out. The wide double doors of the barn stood open.
Caged bulbs were strung along the rafters to light the big space inside,
though Grace wouldn’t have said they lit it well. If someone was
in there, she couldn’t pick them out from the shadows yet.
Miss Wei came around the front grill of the Fury and laid her cool hand
on Grace’s sleeve.
“Just let me do the talking. Christian Durand . . . owes me his
life, you could say.”
For some reason, this request increased Grace’s nervousness. She
dried damp palms on her white pedal pushers, allowing her petite yet
formidable employer to stride into the cavernous structure ahead of
her. Grace followed more sedately and looked around.
Without question, this barn was a male domain. No cows resided between
its walls, only a collection of automobiles of varying vintages and
states of repair. Her mood improving, Grace spotted a 1950 Buick in
the process of having its body “chopped” to reduce wind
drag. The Harley-Davidson leaning on a hay bale also looked promising.
Ever since Marlon Brando starred in The Wild One, motorcycles were big
Maybe her boss was onto something with this harebrained scheme.
“Christian,” Miss Wei called out. “It’s Naomi
Wei. I’ve come to talk in person.”
Grace heard the clank of a wrench hitting the barn’s dirt floor.
She saw the man then, or his bottom half anyway. He was bent over the
engine of a glossy all-black, two-seater, convertible Thunderbird. If
the car hadn’t made Grace’s mouth water, the man in those
Levi’s certainly would have. The metal-caged bulb above him shone
a literal spotlight on his well formed behind. His legs were long and
strong-looking, their finer qualities only heightened by the cowboy
boots he was sporting.
He stretched farther into the engine, exposing two tantalizing dimples
at the top of his hindquarters. Grace’s mouth did its best to
go desert dry. Maybe he sensed her attention, because he spoke. His
voice was dark and smooth, with just a hint of a Texas twang.
“Told you on the phone I wasn’t interested. All dozen times
“You never heard me out,” Miss Wei said.
Mr. Durand straightened, braced his arms on the side of the open hood,
then slammed it down with a bang. Grace’s heart began to beat
faster as she took in how broad his shoulders were. A snug-fitting and
oddly spotless white T-shirt clung to his tapered back, making very
clear the fact that he didn’t have an ounce of fat on him . .
. exactly the way she liked her men, to be truthful. Despite Mr. Durand’s
leanness, the muscles under that clean white cotton rippled with contained
power. His hair was long enough to need tying back, and just as black
and shiny as the finish on his car. His hair would have to be cut, of
course; leading men couldn’t run around looking like Indian braves.
For herself, however, Grace liked the ponytail.
As if to warn her how much she liked it, her panties dampened in a hot,
quick rush—a tad embarrassing, she thought. If Mr. Durand looked
this good from the front, she might be in trouble. No matter how handsome
the actor, Grace prided herself on always behaving professionally.
“I’m not an actor,” he said, still not turning to
her employer. “And if I were, I wouldn’t star in no damn
flick called I Was a Teen-Age Vampire.”
“It’s bound to make heaps of money.”
“I don’t need money,” he snapped.
“You owe me, Christian.”
“I don’t owe you shit, Naomi.”
It wasn’t so much his language as his unabashed hostility that
had Grace sucking in her breath.
The sound wasn’t loud, but Mr. Durand spun around like lightning
on hearing it.
He was facing her then, and his eyes went wide. Grace’s heart
slammed her ribs, but he seemed more shocked than she was. Knowing pretty
well how she looked, she was used to men reacting to the sight of her.
This man’s response took the cake from them all. His head jerked
back like someone had popped a knuckle sandwich into his chin.
He bit out a word she thought meant shit in German.
“Well,” Miss Wei purred, her gaze shifting back and forth
between them. “Isn’t this interesting?”
Grace’s brain recovered enough to realize that Mr. Durand’s
face was movie star gorgeous, which probably accounted for why her pulse
was pounding like a jackhammer. Oh, he didn’t resemble James Dean
or Marlon Brando, but he had their can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him
charisma. She judged him about Dean’s age, early twenties or thereabouts,
a little lined from working outdoors but still young enough to pass
for eighteen. His coffee dark eyes smoldered with hypnotizing hints
of gold. His lips were thin, it was true, but a girl could slice her
heart on those high cheekbones. Even his arms were sexy, the muscles
graceful as they hung loosely at his sides. And, by golly, he was tall—six
feet and change, she was willing to bet. Neither the recently departed
Dean nor the still-rising Brando could pretend that.
Best of all, from the toes of his cowboy boots to the dashing widow’s
peak of his hair, Christian Durand screamed dangerous.
“You’re right, boss,” Grace said, before she could
worry how it would sound. “Every red-blooded American female is
guaranteed to sigh over him.”
Christian couldn’t wrench his attention from the woman who’d
traipsed uninvited into his barn with Nim Wei. She was the spitting
image of his Grace, lost to him for—Christ—nearly five centuries.
This female was a little older, but every year had given her a blessing.
Her face had character to go with its prettiness: a shadow to make her
glow shine brighter, a stubbornness to her peach soft jaw.
Her tidy outfit of pedal pushers and crisp white blouse was ridiculous,
of course, a girl playing dress-up as someone far more serious and less
sensual than she was. Her figure was precisely the sweet temptation
he remembered: a buxom, narrow-hipped torso set atop a pair of showgirl’s
legs. This woman’s hair was shorter than Grace’s, waving
only to her shoulders, though it was the same deep, dark red.
Movie actress hair, he supposed. Had to come in Technicolor.
Vampire that he was, with all the knee-jerk responses that went with
that, he’d started hardening the instant he saw her. Hardening
wasn’t the word for what he was doing now. Running his eyes up
and down her very warm-blooded beauty had his prick screaming for mercy
inside his jeans.
It didn’t care that she couldn’t be his lost beloved. It
was chomping at the bit to burn down this barn with her. On the bare
floor right in front of him sounded fine, with his pike shoved up her
pussy as far as it would go. He winced as his cock struggled harder
against his fly, but the erotic images wouldn’t stop. It had been
too long since he’d cut loose with a woman. He had too little
trouble imagining this one’s ankles around his ears.
“This is Grace,” Nim Wei said in that insinuating voice
of hers. As distracted as he was, he marveled that he made out the words
at all. “She’s my close personal assistant. If you agree
to star in my movie, you’ll be seeing her everyday.”
The girl seemed startled by her employer’s promise, but she stuck
out her hand gamely.
“Grace Michaels,” she said. “I’m very pleased
to meet you, Mr. Durand.”
The name belatedly registered.
“Grace?” he repeated, abruptly hoarse. His normally cool
palm turned fiery where she clasped it.
“Michaels. But please call me Grace if you like.”
He couldn’t release her hand. Her name was Grace, and her eyes
were as clear and green as a peridot. All the times he’d stared
into them rushed back like yesterday. He remembered these very fingers
touching him with such kindness he feared he’d cry, remembered
the way her spectral energy could tingle straight up his cock. The nerves
there were tingling now—jangling, really, like a telephone ringing
off the hook. Grace wasn’t a ghost anymore. She was as solid as
the ground under him. Lord help him, if she brushed against him, his
dick was going to erupt.
“Christian,” he said, having to push his name past the constriction
inside his throat. “My name is Christian. Please call me that.”
“Christian,” she agreed nervously.
When she attempted to tug her hand back, his fangs punched down from
his gums, reacting precisely as if she were prey fleeing. Her accelerated
pulse was lub-dubbing in his ears, a siren song he wasn’t certain
he could resist. Alarmed by his out-of-control responses, he let her
go and stepped back.
Grace massaged her palm as if he’d hurt it.
“So?” Nim Wei said to him.
He looked at her, and he had no idea what she was asking. He wasn’t
even certain what he felt. However it had happened, this seemed to be
Grace, the same Grace who’d promised him forever and then abandoned
him in his darkest hour. His face flashed hot and then icy. Did he hate
her? Did he love her? Did he simply want to fuck her without stopping
for the next ten years?
The painful surge of blood to his groin told him the answer to that
“Christian?” Nim Wei said, her lithe little arms folded.
“Are you going to help me make this flick or not?”
She doesn’t know, he thought. Not who Grace was.
Not what she means to me. All she knows is that her assistant has my
cylinders running hot.
Grace couldn’t have remembered Nim Wei, either, or she wouldn’t
have been trotting after her like a faithful Girl Friday. Hell, the
prissy sweater she’d tied around her shoulders was the same shade
of powder blue as Nim Wei’s scarf. The witch of Florence was Grace’s
god-damned mentor, as if Nim Wei weren’t responsible for half
the trouble that befell them both back then.
All of which boiled down to Grace not remembering him.
He stared into her wide green eyes, his immortal heart contracting in
his chest with an emotion very much like terror. She wasn’t putting
on an act. He saw no recognition in her expression. She was flushed;
attracted, unless he was mistaken, and embarrassed because of it, but
only in the way—how had she put it?—any red-blooded American
girl might be.
He didn’t understand what it meant. Had she been reincarnated
like that crazy Bridey Murphy from the bestselling book? Could people
come back looking just as they had before?
Without realizing it, he’d folded his arms in an echo of Nim Wei’s
posture. He caught a flash from Grace’s mind of how he looked
with his biceps bulging in the white T-shirt. That definitely didn’t
help his blood pressure. When Grace extended her hand to touch his bare
forearm, her fingers were trembling.
“We’d both consider it a favor if you’d agree,”
she said. “Miss Wei needs an ace in the hole to break out of making
“And you think I’d be your ace.”
“Oh, absolutely,” Grace breathed, her enthusiasm momentarily
teen-ager like. “I know you’re inexperienced, but we could
coach you. A person’s presence is what matters for most films.
Acting is something plenty of folks can learn.”
“And you could coach me,” he said.
Grace shot an uncertain glance at her boss before turning back to him.
“We both could. Or we could hire someone. Whatever you’re
Despite feeling more discomposed than he had in four centuries, despite
loving the peaceful life he’d built for himself out here, Christian
sensed a rare canary-eating grin rising up in him. Love Grace or loathe
her, he couldn’t hate the prospect of having her at his beck and
As the grin spread across his face, threatening to bare his fangs, Grace
tensed warily back from him.
“You coach me,” he said firmly, “and we might have
“She’d be delighted to!” Nim Wei exclaimed before
Grace could speak. “Now why don’t we drive to that two-bit
town of yours and all have a drink on it.”
How much he disliked her answering for Grace dismayed him. After all
this time, and certainly considering the way Grace had broken her promises,
he shouldn’t have felt protective. His shoulders began to ache
with the tension gathering there.
“Would you excuse us, Grace?” he said, his gaze locked firmly
on Nim Wei’s, where he suspected it was safer. He noticed idly
that the bitch queen had cut her hair. Because the black locks didn’t
or wouldn’t curl, the feathery cut was boyish, giving the vampiress
a disconcertingly modern look. Modern or not, he bet she was as dangerous
as ever. “Your boss and I have a thing or two to sort out.”
He took his old nemesis by her deceptively slender elbow, pulling her
to the shadowed privacy of his work bench—far enough that Grace’s
human ears wouldn’t hear. He wasn’t consciously showing
off his strength, but he knew he’d done so when Nim Wei rubbed
“Someone’s been eating their spinach,” she observed
“You’re not the only master vampire here.” He’d
lowered his voice in order not to sound petulant. Nim Wei smiled smugly
anyway. They both knew physical strength was probably the only arena
where he could match her—maybe the least important in an age that
had advanced so far beyond hand-to-hand combat. Christian was relatively
new to his elder status. Nim Wei had been queen among their kind for
millennia. Add to that her mystic bent, and he doubted her drawing his
long-lost lover into her orbit was a coincidence. Why Nim Wei had drawn
Grace was a better question. She’d always been able to sense and
pluck the strands of Fate for her convenience, including when she wasn’t
aware of it.
Not inclined to help her become aware, he shielded his thoughts from
“You shouldn’t be offering that girl on a platter like she’s
Nim Wei’s perfect black eyebrows rose. “Nonsense. Grace
adores me. And rightly so. I saved her from a fate worse than death—or
almost. You’ve no idea what indignities human waitresses put up
with. Besides, don’t you want me offering her to you?”
Christian ordered his fingers to release the edge of the work table,
where they were threatening to crush the wood to sawdust. It was an
effort to speak coolly. “If I wanted her, I wouldn’t need
Nim Wei’s smile exposed a quicksilver flash of fang. “Don’t
be so sure. Grace already idolizes me. Imagine if I bit her. I doubt
even your red-blooded manliness could override my thrall.”
His hand blurred up to grip her neck so swiftly that his better judgment
took a moment to catch up. He might as well have throttled a statue.
Unruffled by his attack, Nim Wei’s marble white fingers stroked
the bones of his wrist.
“Temper, temper,” she scolded as he eased his hold and let
go. “Really, Christian, this is a wonderful opportunity I’m
offering you. A bit of a challenge to ameliorate your boredom.”
“I’m not bored.”
“A little birdie told me you resigned from X-Section.”
“Senator McCarthy’s witch hunts soured me on spying. Let
the humans search under their beds for Communists.”
She nodded knowingly. “You want your own life, one you can shape
without answering to anyone. I remember being that age.”
Christian glanced past his maker. Grace was hunkered down beside his
Harley, her fingers trailing curiously along the chrome tailpipe. Hers
was a human posture: slightly awkward and off balance, but it seemed
beautiful all the same. Her hair glowed like blood where the uncertain
light touched it. His ribs tightened with discomfort. Could she be the
symbol of what he wanted? A future such as mortals dreamed of when they
reached adulthood? He snorted at the ludicrous concept. He was 496.
He was never going to have two-point-five children and a rancher in
“I gave you this existence,” Nim Wei reminded him. “Without
me, even the worms who ate you would be dust by now.”
“You seem to forget the less than idyllic circumstances of my
change, the way you helped my father destroy my life until I had nowhere
else to turn.”
“You’re the one who craved the sort of vengeance only an
upyr could mete out. Got it, too, as I recall. In any case, if I worried
about every vampire who harbored a grudge against me, I’d never
ask for favors.”
“God forbid,” he muttered.
Nim Wei slapped his upper arm, the sting a bit too sharp to be friendly.
“However little you like to acknowledge it, you’re my get:
a city vampire. Moldering out here among the cows won’t ever be
enough for you.”
“I like the quiet.”
“Please. You can be quiet when you’re dead. You know as
well as I do the question isn’t how many years we can live, it’s
how many we want to. Time has weight, Christian. I can see yours weighing
“And this is your answer? To make some idiot movie about vampires?”
She shrugged, a fey gold amusement glinting out from under her downswept
lashes. “It’s entertaining to hide among the humans, to
beat them at their own games.”
“Some victory that is when you’re making up the rules.”
“I’m only cheating a little.”
“If one of your subjects wanted to do this, you’d never
“Maybe I need to express myself.”
She threw this off like it was a joke, but he didn’t doubt it
was true. Though she excelled at hiding her true nature from mortal
eyes, she’d always had a flamboyant streak. Considering the newly
prosperous humans around her were so busy “expressing” themselves
by buying yellow refrigerators and green bathtubs, why should she be
“Come on,” she said coaxingly. “It can’t hurt
to share a drink with the two of us. Grace is quite adorable when she’s
tipsy. Makes her cheeks all yummy and pink.”
The growl that trickled from his throat was as dark as it was unplanned.
Normally, he gave nothing of his interior life away. Laughing, Nim Wei
poked his chest with a pink-frosted fingernail.
“Take your motorcycle,” she advised. “Grace will love
watching your big strong thighs straddle that. Especially if you have
one of those biker jackets with the zippers all over it.”
She turned away before he could form his curse into words.
“Grace,” she called. “Start the car. Christian has
agreed to hear out our pitch."
© 2010 by
Emma Holly. It is illegal to
reproduce or distribute this work in any manner or medium without written
permission of the author.
woman should forget her soulmate, yet Grace Gladwell remembers nothing
of Christian Durand, the medieval soldier she captivated during a fractured
moment in time—when she was just a specter, a heartbeat away from
death. Then, Grace could have been Christian’s savior. Now, she’s
a symbol of more betrayals than he can count. He knows he’d be better
off not remembering . . . except for the scrap of his broken heart that
still longs to believe in her.
certainly shouldn’t get tangled up with his other nemesis, Nim Wei.
Five hundred years haven’t made the vampire queen any more trustworthy.
Now she wants to rule Hollywood as a film director, with Christian her
next big star. Grace is her secret weapon in recruiting Christian to take
the role. Hoping to direct herself, Grace has been playing unwitting student
to Nim Wei’s seemingly kind mentor. One encounter with Christian’s
smoldering bad-boy charisma convinces Grace her teacher is even smarter
than she gave her credit for.
bad for all of them that fiction—and film—can be as strange
as truth. Nothing and no one are what they seem in this seductive vampire
movie, least of all the people who are trying to survive making it.