Hunting the Dark Lord, book 2 just released...

The d'Argent vampires...protecting mortals from evil over the centuries, now determined to destroy the evil Louis Reynard no matter what it takes. Sample an excerpt from SHADOWING THE BEAST, a full-length novel about Stefan d'Argent and the woman he must protect at the risk of his heart.

Late the following afternoon, Stefan spotted a small, elegant bar across the street from Chicago’s Lincoln Park, not more than a block from where Julie Quill lived. After his long journey, he needed the darkness, sought the cool, welcoming atmosphere inside. He stepped through the dark wooden door, a sharply honed rowan stake concealed in a black leather satchel he’d bought this morning at Louis Vuitton’s Paris showroom.

Though he’d fed yesterday, his mouth watered at the thought of sipping something cool, wet, rare. A spritzer of AB negative, made with sparkling water from one of France’s finer springs. Pity this wasn’t a vampire bar. More was the pity that he hadn’t located one yet among the clubs and eateries in this upscale neighborhood or along Rush Street.

He’d taken Alina’s warning to heart. He would feed more consistently wherever vampire sustenance was available. He had to keep up his strength, and he couldn’t afford to be choosy.

He sat at a table in the front, close to a plate-glass window overlooking Lincoln Park, watching the mortals pass by and inhaling the aroma of steaming sausages, hard-boiled eggs, the pungent aroma of dark beer on tap. Consciously, he smiled, being careful not to show his fangs. Blending in with the other customers who apparently made this their after-work watering hole didn’t seem too difficult.

In front of him, a couple sat close together on the same side of a tufted, red leather booth, their sides touching, the man’s arm cradling the woman’s shoulders. As though he’d come straight from work to meet his girlfriend, the man wore a gray pinstriped business suit. She wrapped her fingers around the burgundy-striped tie he had on, caressing his skin beneath the placket of the second and third buttons of his starched white shirt.

Stefan’s sex stirred as he watched the man slide his hand down the back of his girlfriend’s short T-shirt and caress the line of skin above the waistband of her low-riding jeans—blatant sexual foreplay. It had been too damn long since he’d taken a lover. Too long since he’d enjoyed a woman’s touch, her kiss, the heat of her body warming his cool, dry skin.

For a moment he closed his eyes, imagined the tight wet heat of a lover’s tight, wet sheath around him, squeezing . . . soft hands cupping his sac, rolling his testicles in a rhythmic motion that coaxed out his seed . . . He imagined the taste of her blood on his fangs when he nipped her plump, round buttocks. His mouth watered when he opened his eyes and saw the man fingering his girlfriend’s prominent nipples through her thin T-shirt. Desire slammed through him, made his cock press painfully against the zipper of his slacks.

Stefan needed a woman. Needed to fuck away the pain of long-unsatisfied desire.

No. Sex would drain his energies. He must focus now on destroying Reynard—protecting the bastard’s next intended victim. Come to think of it, though, part of his assignment could easily involve appeasing his long-ignored sexual appetite.

On one plane, that disturbed him. On another, the idea had his slow heartbeat accelerating, pumping blood, anticipating . . .

“What’ll you have, handsome?” A buxom, dark-haired waitress smiled down at him.

Stefan hesitated. “A draft, please.” Glancing over at a neon sign behind the bar, he named a well-known German brew. He couldn’t drink it, but the aroma of dark imported beer would tickle his nostrils while keeping him from drawing undue attention from the other patrons in the bar.

“Comin’ right up. Can I get you some peanuts? A sausage?”

“No, thank you.” It was damn inconvenient having to pretend he was a mortal. “Perhaps later.” He coughed, covering his mouth with one hand. Wouldn’t do for the waitress to notice his fangs, though he’d found few people actually took that close a look—or if they did look, they apparently didn’t place any significance on the fact that his incisors were longer and more pointed than he’d ever observed on anybody outside the vampire clans.

For a long time Stefan nursed the dark, rich brew, occasionally lifting the frosted mug and wetting his lips. The taste of hops and wheat was pleasant on his tongue, but he dared not swallow. Even now, after all this time, the memory of having imbibed a mortal’s drink of choice once when he’d been young and foolish—or rather, of having suffered through the aftereffects of having done so—remained vivid in his mind. A day spent tossing in his bed, doubled up from the pain in his gut, retching for hours until all the stuff came up, had been an experience he had no intention of repeating.

He set down the mug and glanced at the scene on the street outside. Dusk made the light green leaves of towering elm trees glisten against a darkening sky. He liked the mysterious, sensual look of the tree-lined boulevard just as night was falling, the dim streetlamps glowing in the deepening dusk.

As his attention lingered on the peaceful tableau, a frisky dachshund came into view, checking out the messages left on every tree and bush, as was the nature of a dog. Stefan enjoyed watching the canine, observing its simple joy in the act of being walked. His gaze rose the length of the bright blue leash to the dog’s owner.

He sensed that he’d just found Reynard’s next victim, and if he’d imagined he could seduce her and stay detached emotionally, he was most likely wrong. Like Alina, this woman was blonde and beautiful. She even had a similar, brilliant smile and a way of walking that conveyed self-confidence. From her carriage, her smile and the ladylike swing to her walk, Stefan concluded that she knew she attracted male attention and liked the knowledge that she did. His cock twitched in silent salute.

He spotted Claude, following the woman at a safely discreet distance. Yes, this was Julie Quill. Concentrating, he made telepathic contact with his associate. “I’m here now, Claude. Go on back to the hotel and stay on the lookout for Reynard.”

The couple in the booth next to him rose, apparently deciding it was time to take their lovemaking to a more private setting. The woman handled the tip by putting her hand in the man’s pants pocket to draw out some folded money, obviously giving him an intimate caress in the process. Discomfited at the blatant love play, Stefan glanced away, shifting his gaze back to the window.

He bolted up straight in his seat, his testicles tightening in cold dread. There stood Reynard, next to the woman on the sidewalk. The bastard looked like thousands of others who walked along the shady boulevard bordering the park. Reynard bent to pet the dog, laughing as though he thought it funny that the small creature’s hackles rose and she bared her small, sharp teeth.

At least the dog knew when it met a foe.

In the short time he’d been part of the hunt, Stefan had seen this in his mind a hundred times—Reynard’s smiles, his courtly manner, his slow enticement of his victim until the next full moon, when he’d taken her, promised ecstasy, and delivered death instead. Now he was witnessing the killer’s seduction dance in real time—the meeting, contrived to look accidental.

He tuned in on the casual conversation.

“May I see you home?”

There it was, the first step, an offhand invitation delivered in a genteel deep voice tinged with the slightest hint of a European accent. Damn, Louis’s pitch wasn’t all that different from conversations Stefan himself had struck up with countless beautiful women over the centuries. His stomach muscles clenched. He’d never killed a lover by design. Never killed at all except that one tragic time, when he’d been young and reckless, carried away by bloodlust.

Though he and Alina had agreed he wouldn’t let the killer know of his presence, something compelled Stefan to get closer, to move within striking range in case Reynard decided to amend his schedule. Stefan rose, laid some bills on the table, and stepped outside.

He couldn’t fight down the certainty in his mind that, as predictable as the killer had been over the past twenty months, this time he would alter his pattern. Stefan crept closer, staying in the shadows of the trees, listening. Delving into his prey’s mind, hoping Reynard wouldn’t sense an adversary’s presence and draw down the curtain on his private thoughts.

Belle Jolie, I cannot wait . . . dine on your luscious flesh . . . end of the full moon’s waning.

Stefan imagined Reynard’s incisors lengthening, as though in readiness for the appearance of that slender crescent in a midnight sky.

Reynard’s words erased any doubt in Stefan’s mind that this was Julie. And if Stefan read Reynard correctly, the killer planned to strike again in no more than a few short days.

Stefan’s instincts hadn’t been too far off. His muscles quivered with the need to act, but he held back, concentrating on his prey. He needed to catch all the nuances of thought in the evil vampire’s twisted mind.

Staying far enough back to avoid detection, he watched and listened, but it was as though Reynard had deliberately blocked off his innermost thoughts. He spoke to Julie of his travels, the weather, the fact his favorite flower was the rose—the white rose. Stefan’s gut twisted, but Julie obviously caught nothing sinister in that admission, for she remarked that she liked white roses too.

Stefan sensed Julie’s innate kindness, her enjoyment of people and her surroundings. Her smile was open, trusting. Too trusting. Her thoughts seemed as open as Reynard’s were closed.

Reynard was wooing her with vampiric compulsion, stealing away the wariness of strangers that she’d have learned at her mother’s knee. Stefan had to clamp down on his own impulse to take the bastard down right now.

Apparently Reynard’s only emotion was rage, his only motivation revenge and retribution. Though he strained his mind, Stefan intercepted nothing soft in his prey’s feelings. Reynard apparently didn’t even harbor overtly lustful thoughts—and if any woman could raise a made vampire’s lust, it was this one. She certainly raised his own libido more than a notch or two.

Stefan dared not wait to make his move until Alex rejoined them. He had to do something to thwart the killer now, before it was too late. Hanging back, out of sight, he followed Reynard and Julie to the pristine brownstone at 28 Delaney Street, in plain sight of the hotel where the old woman who’d accompanied Reynard from the airport had checked in earlier. Where Claude was keeping a watchful eye on Julie’s house and watching for Reynard’s return.

No doubt Claude had stationed himself in the hotel lobby once he realized Stefan had taken over surveillance of Julie. Stefan imagined his associate would be diligently scanning the faces of all who entered or departed, hoping to spot Reynard. Stefan shook his head. If he knew his very young uncle—and he did—he’d find Claude growing impatient, venturing outside. By now he’d be baking in the late afternoon sun in order to be in better position to spot their prey.

Stefan couldn’t influence Reynard’s thoughts, so he zeroed in on Julie’s mind. He had to reach her, compel her to obey his desperate plea. Don’t let him in. He means you harm.

That little dog of Julie’s faced off against Reynard, its short legs planted firmly on the concrete stoop, hackles raised and teeth bared.

“Noodles, no.” Julie bent, lifting the dog just as she prepared to sink her sharp teeth into the fine wool of Reynard’s gray slacks. “I don’t know what’s gotten into her. She usually exhibits better manners with people she meets.”

Julie. Listen to Noodles. Don’t let this stranger into your home.

When she glanced around, as though looking for the source of the voice in her head, Stefan realized he’d connected with Julie. She’d heard him and was considering what he’d said. Not wanting to alert Reynard to his presence, Stefan stayed hidden behind a high, neatly manicured hedge across the street. The shadows of approaching darkness further obscured him from their view.

Never before had he connected so quickly with a mortal. Stefan took this as a sign—a sign that if he seduced this woman, he himself would be hard-pressed to hold on to his own emotions. He must, though, for if he let her seduce him, he’d suffer incredible pain when he had to leave. While she would have only a vague recollection of their liaison, his own memories would remain crystal clear for all eternity.

Julie smiled, murmured a good night to Reynard, and went inside with her astute pup. Waiting, his body

tense, prepared for trouble should the other vampire force the issue, Stefan watched the killer vampire stare at her closed, dark blue door.

Reynard turned slowly on his heel, fixed his gaze directly on Stefan’s hiding place—and dipped his head. A flash of arrogant fang, and then he was gone, as though he’d never been there at all.

Fuck. There was no time to lose. Stefan stepped out of the bushes. It was time for him to make his move and become Julie’s bodyguard, up close and personal.

Published by Beyond the Page Publishing, the Hunting fhe Dark Lord series books are available from and most other online digital booksellers.


Barnes and

All Romance EBooks

Featured Posts
Recent Posts