If I Should Die

Some desires never die

Dr. Clarice Adair is a single mom with more than just a truckload of children to worry about.  Centuries ago, she was the vampire companion of a descendant from Elizabeth Bathory.  Today, she’s free and living a “somewhat” human life with all of the sensual cravings of a woman who hasn’t been touched in years.

Sebastian Bova has seen a lot in his two-hundred years.  But, he’s never seen anything as extraordinary as the serum developed by Dr. Adair that can turn a rabid vampire into a tamed pussy cat.  He wants her secret and will have it.  Temptation was never a part of the plan, especially with a single mom who has a bunch of mouths to feed.

Centuries of searching have brought the descendants of Bathory to Clarice’s front door and they’re not leaving with out her.  She’s ready to fight a losing battle to protect her loved ones, unless Sebastian can win over the protective, single-mother’s heart on time to help save them all.  An all-or-nothing battle is brewing and even the winner might not come out on top.

Ebook ($1.99): Amazon

Coming to Smashwords, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble on June 22, 2013

Chapter 1

A cool shiver swept across Dr. Clarice Adair’s low neckline. She never should’ve worn a dress to an event like this. Not  with the way Sebastian Bova kept eyeballing her over the rim of his wine glass. And there were a lot of sips. It shouldn’t have bothered her considering she wanted attention from the opposite sex, something she hadn’t cared about in years. Life’s basic needs like sex and a warm body to snuggle with had caught up to her. And as that bastard Fate would have it, it picked the perfect time to drop a deliciously looking guy like Sebastian in her path. A guy who made it clear that he wanted her for professional reasons alone. But then again, there was something in those eyes that said he saw her as more than just a white coat in a lab tonight.

Bova scoped her out from head to toe even though she sat at a round banquet table about twelve feet away with a white tablecloth and dazzling floral centerpiece to hide most of her slim figure. Dim lighting made it almost impossible to read the schedule of events, but that didn’t stop his exploring.

All for the sake of an awards banquet. If she had paid more attention to the seating chart, she would’ve asked the hostess to sit her elsewhere so she could dine in peace with her colleagues from the university. Not be tormented by the gaze of a man who never signaled that he wanted to go beyond professional acquaintances. Perhaps it was for the better, given her horrifying string of luck with the men in her past.

But this was a professional gathering and Mr. Bova should have treated it as such. After all, that was how he treated their sterile lunch dates where he did nothing but talk business. If he was interested, he should’ve just said so and put an end to her libidinous imagination. He must have figured since his pharmaceutical company shoveled out a lot of money to help sponsor this event, he could mentally undress her as much as he wanted. As much as she wanted a man in her life again, she didn’t want one who sent her mixed signals either.

Clarice couldn’t help returning the pointed gaze while the speaker threatened to put everyone into a coma with his boring acceptance speech. How Bova managed to stay awake through the verbal mire she didn’t know. That was the end of her slight fascination with him and she knew it. Of course, that didn’t mean she had to admit it.

There was something about a guy who liked sporting a shaved head with days-old black stubble. And those eyes. Good Lord. They tantalized her, making her scream in places that hadn’t been touched in years. Perfect posture with a black tux and high collar, white shirt underneath. Every time one of his attendants—she wasn’t sure what to call them—leaned in to whisper a word, she gulped at the perfect view of his deliciously smooth neck that reminded her of a scoop of vanilla ice cream on a hot summer day.

Clarice licked her lips and diverted her attention, praying he didn’t catch the heat slipping onto her cheeks. Even in this low light, she couldn’t hide that.

She also couldn’t forget the few lunches he had treated her to over the last two months while trying to convince her to come work for him. They only had dinner once and that ended early because he had grown suddenly ill and threw up. Big deal. It wasn’t like they were going steady or anything. Besides, it had been more than a month since she’d seen him and had never strayed from calling him Mr. Bova instead of Sebastian. Business was business and pleasure wasn’t in the picture.

When the awards banquet ended, Clarice made a beeline for the exit with her black clutch pulled tight to her chest and her coat-check ticket in hand. With a quick swipe of her chiffon shawl, she tossed the longest end over her spaghetti-strapped shoulders and hoped the rain from earlier in the day had ended.

Her heels clicked across the wet pavement. The fresh earth filtered across her nose from the sodden bushes and plants, the fresh smell of rain and loam flooded her nose. Another storm had roamed through the area while they were inside. A smile pressed into her cheeks, her eyes closing momentarily to relish in the fresh-smelling earth after a torrential downpour.

She triggered the alarm on her small sedan.

Something touched her neck. Clarice whirled around with her fists up and back pressed against the driver’s side door.

“Sorry.”  Sebastian took a long drag on his cigarette before flicking the bud on the pavement. “I should’ve made more noise.”

Clarice forced her stampeding heart to slow. “You’re lucky I didn’t put a martial arts move on you, Mr. Bova.”

“Martial arts? Now that’s something that never came up during our lunch meetings.”

She sighed and lifted her chin. “Mr. Bova, is there something more I can do for you? Dr. Goshen and I have more than stated our position on your expedition to South America. While it sounds intriguing, I can’t—”

“Leave the wheeling and dealing for the banquet and meeting rooms. That’s why I came out here for a smoke.”

Clarice arched an eyebrow. “Are you sure that’s the only reason?”

“You mean to see if I could persuade you to commit to the mission we’ve already discussed too many times to count?”

Shaking her head, she smirked. Most guys would’ve jumped on an innuendo like that. “Trust me, Mr. Bova. Even with your company listed as an investor for this event, you can’t touch my price requirements.”

“Funny. Others in your position didn’t bat an eyelash.”

“Then why do you need me?”  Clarice opened her door and tossed her black-beaded purse inside. “I’ll be nothing more than an distraction. We both know what you really want and it hardly has anything to do with this South America trip.”

His dark brow arched with a question, though the grin on his perfectly curved lips said he was in the mood for play. “Oh? Really?”

Clarice flinched. She didn’t mean it to sound like an overconfident, horny hussy. Besides, she was done with trying to get his attention.

She cleared out her dirty thoughts and lifted her chin in defiance. “You know what I mean. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have spent all this time and money trying to change my mind. Most people would’ve taken no for an answer then scratched the person off their list. Either you’re not getting it or your pencil didn’t come with an eraser.”

He chuckled. “If you didn’t like the hot pursuit, you would’ve declined my lunch invitations.”

She darted her eyes elsewhere. So? A free meal with a gorgeous guy? How could any woman in her right mind pass that up? Nevertheless, there was something about being in his presence that seemed to touch every nerve ending right down to her soul. She liked him. No doubts about that. Liked him a lot. But she wasn’t about to pursue something that might put a dent in her life right now. Had things been different, perhaps….

He waved a dismissive hand, freeing her from her embarrassment. “Nevertheless, the South America trip is very real. We believe the phalynx orbus can turn the hardest criminal into a schoolgirl. No more schizophrenia or manic depression either.”

“Then why not contact another big-name organization or donor who might be able to help?”

“Because they’re not interested in the human aspect. Only the dollar value. And as for an organization, it takes months to work their finances through the red tape. Besides, it’s not the money we’re worried about. It’s the expertise, and you have it.”

“All because of a paper I wrote on mythology and superstition surrounding botanicals throughout the ages.”

“Yes. That paper.”  He shifted on his feet. “It opened the door to possibilities. You know the plant’s survival conditions better than anyone else. It just happens that those conditions—”

“The plant is based on chance. The few drawings in existence are based on eyewitness accounts from the early nineteenth century and no two are exactly alive. The orbus isn’t just extremely rare. It’s most likely gone by now.”

His hooded eyes held no malice when they met hers. “As I was saying, we’ve found those conditions, but it takes an expert to find the orbus.”

“Let me get this straight. You’re willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a guesswork expedition.”

“Yes.”

“It must be nice to have that much money to piss away.”  Clarice bunched the back of her long overcoat and gown in her hand and lowered herself behind the steering wheel.

As she reached out to close the door, Sebastian braced it with his hand to stop her. “If it exists, it’ll be one of the most endangered plant species in the world. Getting it out of the country will be hard enough. Preparing it for shipment overseas will be even worse.”

That wasn’t news to her. Clarice had received all 174 pages of his company’s proposal, including the problems involved with trying to get permission to leave South America with an endangered, exotic plant. In addition, about ninety-eight percent of her colleagues believed the plant to be wiped out and she was among them. The proposal asked for six months of her time at a year’s salary and a share in the honors of developing a cure for taming extreme psychotic behavior.

For Clarice, it wasn’t enough. Greed had nothing to do with it. Her responsibilities at home did.

She pulled the door closed, wishing she had never written that paper on extinct medicinal plants as a part of her doctoral thesis years ago. Clarice wowed her professor so much that she wanted to have the article printed. The newly minted Dr. Adair refused, took her PhD, and accepted a job at another university. Too bad she hadn’t realized how small the medicinal botany circles were.

Sebastian rapped his knuckles on the window. Clarice didn’t want to talk to him anymore. He couldn’t change her mind. Nonetheless, she lowered the glass.

“Our offer still stands,” he said.

“And so does my rejection. Thank you for your consideration and have a good night.”  She hated shutting him down like that, but enough was enough. Tomorrow, she’d hit up an online dating service and hope for someone who didn’t treat her like a business transaction.

Sebastian hesitated, gaze lowering a moment while he scratched his chin. “Times have been rough for you, Dr. Adair. Finding the orbus could be the career boost that you need. Perhaps bring it back to the days of your first doctoral thesis that garnered so much attention, and even had a couple of universities show interest. There was a time when you were at the top of your game. Now you’re—”

“And you’re a top-rated asshole.”  She started the engine.

He cursed under his breath. “I’m only trying to make you see reason. The orbus…”  His voice rose but failed to match that of the roaring engine. She peeled backward, threw the gear into drive and screeched the tires on her way out of the parking lot.

What she wouldn’t give for a bolt of lightning to zap the crown of his bald head. He had no clue what he was asking of her. A trip like that could cost her dearly.