Excerpt from Demon Bayou

Once he was satisfied that his shadows were nowhere near, Viktor proceeded on to the Mayor’s manor. He knew it would take more than the foppish clothes to get him inside. Regardless of how he was dressed, even the servants would know not to let the notorious pirate on the grounds, let alone in the house.

So, it was one Thomas Brumble come to call on the Lord Mayor with a shipping and trade proposition from his father, Tobias Brumble of Boston. Viktor/Thomas was gambling that the mayor was as strongly afflicted with avarice as most politicians he had encountered. It was a gamble that paid off, not only gaining him entry to the main house, but an audience with the mayor, himself.

Viktor found the alias to be ideal. Apparently, the Brumble & Sons shipping company had an excellent reputation among those acquainted with the trade. It also afforded an excuse, in case Viktor seemed a little rough around the edges at times. After all, if one spent months at a time around coarse sailors, it was difficult not to pick up some of their language and habits.

The bogus negotiations had reached the glass of port and cigar stage, when a commotion in the hallway drew their attention. Lazarus, in feline form, darted into the room closely followed by a young woman. Something shiny could be seen dangling from his mouth as he darted in and out among the furniture.

“You thieving little beast! Come back here!” the woman demanded shrilly, trying to catch the cat.

“Melanie! What is the meaning of this?” the mayor blustered.

“He has my favorite pendant,” was the only answer she gave.

Viktor had to admit the girl was quick. She managed to corner the cat under a small writing desk, but was unable to reach him. Lazarus growled, never releasing his prize, and swatted at her hand, careful to keep his claws sheathed.

“Give it back!”

Chuckling, Viktor knelt by the desk. “Allow me, ma’m’selle.” Snapping his fingers, he ordered, “Come here, you little pirate. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

To Melanie’s amazement, the large black cat obediently came to the handsome stranger. Even more amazing, it dropped its prize into his palm. The infuriating beast then had the arrogance to preen and look smug about its actions.

Examining what he had retrieved, Viktor admired the workmanship of the jewelry. The pendant was an ornate filigree of gold, studded with garnets. Three large pearls were suspended from the lower edge, and the pendant was threaded onto a length of burgundy velvet ribbon.

“Thank you, m’sieur.” She made a grab for the necklace. Viktor held it just out of reach, a challenging smile dancing in his eyes.

The mayor cleared his throat, scowling at her. “I apologize for my daughter’s lack of manners.”

“I said thank you Papa,” she pouted.

“So you did, ma’m’selle.” The vampire’s eyes never left her. “Aren’t you going to introduce us, Louie?”

“Of course, forgive me. M’sieur Brumble, this is my lovely, if ill-mannered, daughter, Melanie. My fault, of course. I fear I have spoiled her,” he puffed with adoring pride. “Melanie, this is Monsieur Thomas Brumble, of Boston. His family runs a profitable and prominent shipping company. He came here today to negotiate a trade agreement.”

The girl knew her father’s avarice well. It was a trait she shared with him. She smiled up at Viktor. Not only was he handsome, but wealthy as well. “Thank you, again, for retrieving my pendant, m’sieur. Will you be staying in New Orleans long? It’s such a long way from Boston. I imagine your wife misses you.”

“Please, call me Thomas, and it was my pleasure,” he smiled at her flirting. “I have other business to attend to in your lovely city, but I must sail as soon as I have finished. Unfortunately, I have no wife to miss me, as yet.”

Both the mayor and his daughter perked up their ears at that. The father saw a means of cementing what promised to be a very profitable arrangement. Melanie saw that the man was both available and appreciative.

“Very well, Thomas. You must call me Melanie,” she batted her lashes. “May I please have my pendant back now?”

“Of course,” he moved to stand behind her. “If I may?”

She nodded and lifted her hair out of the way. Reaching around in front of her with the necklace, he made sure the pearl drops brushed against her cleavage. He drew it up slowly and brushed his fingertips against her nape, as he tied the ribbon.

“It is not too tight, I hope,” he whispered close to her ear.

Melanie’s pulse raced. She’d had suitors before, but none had ever been so bold, especially in front of her father. It made her blush and excited her, as well.

Louie saw it, too. He liked that the man was not intimidated by him. He also liked that “Brumble” was not the usual, money-grubbing young buck, looking to marry into wealth and a life of ease. He was wealthy in his own right and well-acquainted with work. He hadn’t missed the sun-weathered complexion or the calloused hands and muscular build that were incongruous with the foppish attire.

“I’m sure M’sieur Brumble would like to stay for dinner, Melanie. Perhaps you could show him the gardens in the meantime.”

Viktor made a show of turning the offer down. “Really, my Lord Mayor, I don’t want to impose. I can join some of my officers at one of the common houses. I have to admit, I’ve acquired a taste for the cuisine here in such a short time. It’s so much more flavorful than New English fare. Spicy.”

“Nonsense, man. It’s no imposition. Cook always prepares too much, and I’m positive Melanie will be glad of the company.”

“Well, who am I to disappoint such a lovely lady?” he offered his arm. “Lead the way, ma’m’selle.”

She actually giggled, as she took his arm and led him from the room.

Louie smiled smugly to himself, confident that he would soon be gaining a son-in-law as well as a business partner.

Viktor wandered through the gardens with Melanie, pretending to enjoy the vacuous small talk she was barraging him with. He thought there were far more useful and entertaining things she could be doing with her tongue. Damn, but she was boring his balls off.

Finally, they reached a secluded spot. He stopped, looking around. “Good, they can’t see us from here,” he muttered to himself.

Melanie thought he was talking to her. “Are you sure?”

“Quite.” The look he gave her was almost predatory. He was going to enjoy shutting her up.

Before he could act, however, she took the initiative. Standing on tiptoe, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a kiss. He returned the embrace and the kiss, retaking control of the situation. He did not release her when they broke from the kiss.

Rather than struggle, as he’d half expected, she gave him a sultry look. “You’re not like the others,” her voice was husky. “You are a masterful man, not a timid boy, frightened of aggressive women.”

“You’ve read me well, pet. Shall I tell you a secret?”

“Let me guess. You are really a pirate come to steal me away and ravish me,” her tone told him it was something she had probably fantasized about… often.

He chuckled wickedly, “Clever girl. How did you guess?”

Melanie laughed, but it had a nervous note to it. “You have a wicked sense of humor, Thomas.”

He tightened his grip around her waist a bit. “Oh, but I’m not joking, pet. That is exactly what I am and why I am here. Oh,” he added, “my name isn’t Thomas Brumble, either. I killed the real Brumble weeks ago.”

She started struggling, more angry than frightened. “This isn’t funny. Let go! Who are you supposed to be, if you are not Thomas?”

“Captain Viktor Brandewyne. Perhaps you have heard of me?”

Her eyes grew large. She opened her mouth and took in a lungful of air, preparing to scream. He never gave her the chance. He covered her mouth with his own to muffle her cries. When she started struggling and flailing, he took them to the ground. Pinning her under his weight freed his hands to capture her arms.

After a few minutes, she stopped wriggling and began to respond to the kiss. Once he thought it was safe, he sat up, still straddling her. She gazed up at him, disheveled, with swollen lips and dilated pupils. He could smell that her body was ready for him.

He wouldn’t take her here in the gardens, though. They had been out of sight long enough that her father would be sending someone to check on them soon.

“They’ll be looking for you. It’s time to leave.”

“You’ll never get past the gate or wall,” she managed to muster some defiance.

“I’ve another secret for you, pet.” He stood and lifted her in his arms so quickly it took her a moment to realize she was no longer on the ground. “I’m not human.”

With ease, he launched them straight up about a hundred feet. Melanie squeaked in terror and clung to him with a death-grip.

“Don’t drop me!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, pet. I need you alive and intact.”