Walking into the bar to retrieve the bracelet she needs to save her father’s skin—and her own—is the most dangerous thing she’s ever done. She doesn’t need or want a vampire’s help. Not even if that vampire is peacemaker Max Markow, there at Ruby Red with his own grudge to settle.
When an unexpected bar fight gets them locked away in a cellar to die, Serena and Max are forced to work together in order to escape. In such cramped quarters, passions flare. All they have is each other, but only time will tell if that’s enough to survive.
I took a ton of elements I enjoyed and threw them together into the pot to see what would come out. Vampires. Cowboys. Snark. A locked room.
Here's how they meet:
“Here’s a little tip.” The murmured words in her ear came with a drawl and whiskey-soaked slide that would have raised goose bumps even if she wasn’t nervous about being in a vampire bar. “Always look ’em in the eye, darlin’. Don’t do that, and they’re going to think you’re dinner.”
Serena twisted around to find herself staring into the bluest eyes she had ever seen. Laugh lines marked their corners, and the sensual mouth was curved into an amused grin. His shoulder-length dark hair was mostly hidden by a white cowboy hat, swept back to reveal the silver studs in both of his ears. He hadn’t shaved, either, his jaw rough with stubble, but that didn’t hide the slight pallor in his skin. It just masked it a little. It probably made it easier for him to pass when he was in human company. Because if Serena didn’t know to look for it, she would never have pegged him for a vampire.
It was never good when you couldn’t pick the enemy out of the crowd.
“I’ll take that under advisement,” she replied, keeping her tone cool.
The bartender placed her beer in front of her, giving her the perfect opportunity to turn away from the stranger’s attention. Her gaze flickered to the shot glass he then set down for her new neighbor. Apparently, she wasn’t going to be drinking alone.
“See, already you’re asking for trouble. If I wasn’t such a gentleman, I’d be looking at you like a tasty treat right about now.”
Behind the counter, the bartender snorted and shook his head before heading down to the opposite end of the bar.
“Someone thinks you’re lying,” Serena observed.
“Will thinks everybody who walks through those doors is a liar.”
“Most bartenders usually know their patrons better than anybody.”
“And most bartenders usually don’t finish their shift by draining the last patron standing.” The stranger was still grinning when she glanced over at him. “Take it as you will.”
He clearly wasn’t going anywhere. Serena had half a mind to pick up her beer and move to one of the few empty tables, but then that might encourage some of the less attractive vampires in the place into thinking she was fair game. This one seemed content to play the game, and if he was easy on the eyes, what was wrong with that?
He knocked back his shot with practiced ease and set the glass down on the inner half of the counter to indicate a refill from the bartender. “So if Will here knows his customers so well…” His mouth curved in amusement as he spoke, his gaze deliberately flicking over her form-fitting black tank top and the outline of her legs in her jeans. “I guess that means you’ve got a few backroom secrets of your own you’re toting around.”
Only years of practice with cousins who could read every single body rhythm kept Serena’s heart from skipping a beat. “You’ve got an awful lot of opinions for me, considering I don’t even know who you are,” she replied evenly. The cold beer soothed her throat, making it easier to focus on the here and now, and not on the later when everything might go all to hell.
“Max Markow.” He even tapped the front brim of his hat as he nodded at her, as if they were being introduced in polite Texas society. “Now you get to tell me your name.”
“I get to? Did I win some door prize I don’t know about?”
That easy smile returned. He kept his fangs well out of sight, this one did.
“I’ve been called worse in my day.”
In spite of her better judgment, Serena snorted. “You might even be called worse yet tonight.”
He toyed with his shot glass as Will carried over a bottle of Jack Daniels and refilled it. “If it means I get to stick around with your company, I’m goin’ to reckon it’ll be worth it.”