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Dell Books (ebook only) -- just $1.99!
Midnight Breed Original Novella
22,000 words (about 100 pages)
On sale December 5, 2011!
(Print edition to be included as bonus material in the mass market paperback release of Darker After Midnight, Summer 2012)
*Note: This novella is a stand-alone romance that can be read entirely on its own. However, if you're following the series timeline, A Taste of Midnight takes place toward the end of Deeper Than Midnight and before Darker After Midnight opens. The heroine of this novella is Danika, who first appeared in Book 1, Kiss of Midnight. I hope you enjoy her second chance at love!
From the back cover:
For fans who have been been waiting to devour Darker After Midnight, as well as new readers tempted by the seductive thrills of her Midnight Breed novels, New York Times bestselling author Lara Adrian offers up a tantalizing appetizer in A Taste of Midnight. In this spellbinding eBook novella of otherworldly desire, a woman whose destiny was born from a blood kiss discovers that second chances do come . . . even for immortals.
A shimmering holiday gala lights up an ancient castle in the Scottish Highlands, but beautiful widowed Breedmate Danika MacConn feels alone in the crowd. Even among the friends and festivity of the Darkhaven celebration, she can’t forget her lost love, a fallen warrior of the Order. Her brief return to her mate’s homeland has become treacherous after rejecting the advances of a dangerous Edinburgh crime boss with a taste for blood sport.
As Danika seeks to expose the vampire and his dark trade, she discovers an unexpected ally in his forbidding, enigmatic henchman, Brannoc, a man who exudes heat, danger, and dark menace--and seems somehow achingly familiar. Bran has his own reasons for wanting to keep Dani out of his employer’s business . . . and his own secrets he means to keep buried. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a woman who tempts the wildest part of his Breed nature--especially when that woman is Danika MacConn, the one woman capable of bringing him to his knees.
Contains a preview of the hotly anticipated nightcap of Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series, Darker After Midnight!
Christmas music swelled from the tuxedo-clad orchestra, filling the ballroom of the Edinburgh mansion where two dozen beautiful couples danced beneath garlands of crisp holly and fragrant evergreen boughs. High overhead, giant chandeliers dripping with cut crystals and glittering gold accents scattered soft light like diamonds onto the Darkhaven gathering below. It was night outside the eighteen-foot tall windows that ran the length of the ballroom, daytime shutters folded back from the glass to reveal a pristine, moonlit spread of rolling Highland hills blanketed in wintry white.
The scene was as picture perfect as a page in a glossy magazine.
Elegant, urbane. Utterly enchanting.
Danika could hardly stifle the urge to scream.
She didn’t belong here. Coming back to Scotland for the holidays, and to this Breed social gathering tonight--both at the insistence of Conlan’s well-meaning relatives--had been a mistake. Two days in Edinburgh and already she was itching to book the next available flight back home to her quiet life in Denmark. She’d only been two hours in her high-heeled sandals and black cocktail dress, struggling to make small talk with a hundred people she didn’t know, and more than half that time she’d been eyeing the mansion’s front door with a longing she could scarcely hide.
"Are you having a nice time, Danika?”
God, it was all she could do not to pivot and bolt.
Instead, she smiled politely at the young woman beside her. “Of course. The party is lovely, Emma.”
“You see? I knew you’d enjoy getting out for a while,” the petite redhead said. She was the Breedmate of one of Con’s distant cousins, a mere child in her twenties, still fresh with the shine of unspoiled youth and glowing with the promise of the eternal bond she shared with James, the handsome Breed male at her side. His dark eyes were tender on Emma, his strong arm holding her protectively at his side. When he smiled at his pretty mate, it was impossible to miss the press of his emerging fangs behind his lip. Desire transformed his gaze too, his irises flashing with heated sparks of amber.
The couple obviously adored each other, and it was hard for Danika not to envy them their future. Hard to remember what it was like to be newly blood bonded and so in love, looking forward to time together without end.
Danika glanced away from the pair and smoothed the scarlet silk mourning sash tied around her waist. She’d forgone the traditional white widow’s gown, but even a year and a half after Conlan’s death in Boston, she found it difficult to give up this last symbol of her loss. Being in Scotland--Con’s homeland--only made his absence more obvious. They’d forged a history together here, in the Highlands. Centuries of time bonded as one, living a peaceful existence, until Con’s sense of duty and honor took them to America some hundred years ago, where he’d pledged his sword in service as a warrior of the Order.
They’d wanted for nothing, except the child they’d finally decided to have. Their son, Connor, conceived just three months before Conlan was killed on an Order mission gone awry. She’d hated leaving the baby back at her guest cottage with Con’s family tonight, even for a couple of hours. He was all she had, her only link to the life she’d shared with Conlan. Danika glanced out at the sea of strangers all around her, civilian Breed males and their mates, a hundred unfamiliar faces in an unfamiliar place. She looked at them all, never feeling so alone.
“Will you excuse me for a moment?” she asked the couple beside her. “I should call the house again, make sure everything is all right with Connor.”
“But you just checked in on him five minutes ago--”
Danika let the comment trail off behind her, already moving toward the quiet perimeter of the ballroom and fishing her phone out of her little evening clutch. The update from the guest cottage where Danika and Connor were staying was the same as it had been every other time she’d called to inquire. Everything was fine with the baby, no need for Danika to worry.
She thanked the Breedmate watching Connor and ended the call, knowing it was wrong to wish for a reason to leave the party and rush back to her child. She was supposed to be having a nice time tonight. Since she was stuck there until her companions decided to leave, maybe she should at least make an effort to enjoy herself a little.
Slipping the phone back into her purse, she began a slow circuit of the room. The red sash around her waist deflected the interest of all but the boldest of the unattached Breed males. Then again, that at five-foot-eleven without the added height of her four-inch spiked heels, and long Nordic blond hair, she realized she was hard to miss. She could ignore the assessing stares of the men at the gathering. It was the pitying looks of the other Breedmates that made her feel the most awkward.
Widowed after so long together? I would rather die myself than lose my mate like that.
Danika briefly closed her eyes as the thought sailed at her from across the room. She didn’t know whose mind she’d tapped into, nor could she bar the intrusion. Every Breedmate was gifted with a unique extra-sensory talent. Hers was the ability to read thoughts, be it Breed, Breedmate, or basic Homo sapiens. Unfortunately, since Conlan’s death, that ability had become unpredictable, unmanageable. His Breed blood had kept her youthful for centuries, but it had also fed her talent and kept it strong.
Several times already tonight she’d been blindsided by a sudden uninvited mental commentary. Most were mundane prattle and insipid cocktail party drivel, but some thoughts bore sharp edges that zeroed in on her like arrows.
Never would’ve happened if Conlan had stayed in Scotland where he belonged. Never should’ve taken an outlander as his mate.
Danika lifted her chin and strode deeper into the throng of Darkhaven civilians. Let them stare. Let them cast their silent blame and suspicion. Let them gape at her like the outsider she was. She had never needed anyone’s approval; she sure as hell didn’t need it now.
She walked right through the center of the gathering, her steps unrushed, head held high. Overheard, muffled conversations joined the barrage of unwelcome psychic input, until it was nearly impossible to discern which words were spoken aloud and which were given voice only in her mind. Pointless musings on uncomfortable wardrobe choices and pending holiday plans overlapped with opinionated debates on Breed politics and the dismal economic situation of the human world.
By the time Danika reached the far side of the ballroom, her skull was ringing from the combined cacophony of sensory input. Some fresh air would help clear her head. She made her way toward a closed pair of curtained French doors that opened onto an outdoor terrace.
As she neared, she saw the dark shapes of several Breed males standing outside. Their voices were little more than low rumbles on the other side of the glass. She paused at the mention of a pending live cargo shipment overdue at Edinburgh airport--something expensive, requiring discreet handling. That alone was enough to make her instincts prickle, but it was the next comments that froze her feet to the floor where she stood.
“Does the cargo include anything . . . exotic?”
“Perhaps,” came the airless, arrgoant reply. “So, be sure to bring your best offers. And your appetites, whatever they may entail.”
Low, conspiratory chuckles answered from the group of vampires. As they continued talking, their voices dropped to a level too quiet for her to make out. But she tried, edging a bit closer to the terrace doors and feigning rapt interest in a hideous painting framed on the wall beside her.
Eavesdropping is a very rude habit.
The thought slammed into her mind from out of nowhere, as deep and rich as molasses and thick with a rolling Scots burr.
Can be dangerous too, lass.
Did she know that thick, dark voice? Even more unsettling, did its owner know her?
Danika sent a quick glance around the gathering, looking for familiar faces among the throng in the ballroom and the smaller groups clustered at its perimeter. Aside from Conlan’s handful of cousins and their mates, there was nothing but strangers all around her.
Yet she was sure she’d heard that slow, sardonic Highland drawl before. She thought about the conspiring handful of Breed males on the terrace outside, and she wondered . . . .
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