Joshua Thomas sat in front of his piano, tickling the ivory keys, each note bringing him closer to the end of another new creation. A musical masterpiece. When the last strains of the ending notes died away, leaving only the soft sounds of his breathing, Joshua closed his eyes and rested his head against the piano. God, he was tired. So damn tired. His life was hollow, empty. The one bright spot in his life was his music. It was the only thing that brought him even a semblance of peace and joy. No one knew just how much of him was intricately woven into each note. But Joshua knew how vital his music was to his well being. He needed it to survive.
A noise behind him drew his attention from his sad thoughts. He didn't have to turn to know who was in the room.
"Damon," Joshua said, annoyed at the unwelcome intrusion.
"Joshua." Damon Frost's tone was mocking.
Joshua turned on the piano stool to face his childhood friend. The man looked like he'd just risen from bed after a hard fucking session. Joshua sniffed the air and smelled the scent of sex and woman. Feeling the strong energy surrounding Damon, Joshua realized he was hungry. It had been two days since he'd last fed.
Some would call their kind vampires, others would deem them monsters. Their true nature was sensuous and darkly erotic.
The destruction of their planet had prompted Joshua's people to leave their dying home and seek a life on Earth. They had studied and learned everything they could about the planet, including its different ways of life and the sexual aspects of mating. Once they'd arrived, Joshua's people quickly discovered that human sexual emotions ran hot and heavy, and that those emotions could appease their vampire hunger for long periods of time. A true mate would sustain and feed their hunger for eternity.
Was there such a thing as a true mate? Joshua believed so. His own parents were living, breathing proof of it. But he had not found his true mate yet, and it was already the twenty-first century. He knew he was destined to mate with a human, but didn't know who or when.
Joshua, Damon and Roarke O'Brien, along with hundreds of other children from two to sixteen years old, were raised as Earth children.
The boys came of age in the sixteenth century and proved themselves Renaissance men in more ways than one, quickly learning that seducing an Earth woman and bringing her to climax was the ultimate high. The boys had become drunk off the power raging through their bodies after sex, but found that using one woman for more than a few times took her life force so low she barely survived. After several close calls, Roarke and Joshua learned to curb their appetites and their needs, but Damon never had. He went from woman to woman, climax after climax, not caring if he nearly drained them or not.
Joshua could still hear Damon's words reverberating through his mind. "It's a rush that our women can't give us. You guys are pansies if you think I'll give that up."
Joshua had argued with him. "You're wrong. Our true mate can give us that rush. Remember our parents? They don't feed except on each other. There is no need for it."
Damon sneered at him. "You go ahead and do what you have to, I am going to feast on any and every woman's life force that I can. I'll taste and fuck their sweet pussies as well."
His harsh, non-caring words had struck a chord deep in Roarke and Joshua. From then on, Joshua had distanced himself from Damon, only seeing him from time to time, whenever Damon deemed it necessary to show his face. Like now!
"What do you want, Damon? I'm busy." Joshua turned back to the piano, softly playing the song that ran through his mind and his soul.
"Nice tune," Damon commented, not answering the question.
Joshua stopped playing, rose from the stool and walked to the bar. He grabbed a glass and a bottle of scotch, then walked to the fireplace and sat in one of the plush leather side chairs. He poured two fingers of scotch and set the bottle on the cherry side table. Lifting the glass to his lips, he knocked back the smoky liquor and set the glass down with a thud.
He arched a brow inquiringly and waited for Damon to answer.
Damon sauntered over to the other side chair and sat down, his legs stretched out in front of him. He sat silently.
He was brooding. Joshua hated it when Damon brooded. It usually meant a woman had turned him down. Joshua silently laughed. Good for her.
"I want to ask you something."
Joshua heard a tone in Damon's voice that called for him to sit up and listen. He moved his head from side to side to ease the stiffness in his neck, and waited. "I'm listening."
Damon turned and looked at Joshua. "Do you really believe there is one woman for us? A true mate, as you once told me?"
Okay, this was serious. Joshua weighed his words in his mind and when he felt confident they were the ones he needed, he spoke.
"Yes, I do. Our parents are good examples of that truth, and so is Roarke." A few months after the blow up with Damon, Roarke had found Melissa, his mate. Now the two of them were blissfully happy and trying to have a baby.
"What about you, Joshua? Have you found your true mate yet?" Damon asked. There was no sarcasm in the statement, which surprised Joshua. Evidently Damon was really interested in knowing the truth.
Joshua leaned forward, resting his forearms upon his thighs. He looked at the paisley patterned carpet beneath his feet and silently asked himself that question. Had he found her? Hell, no! All he'd done was learn to curb his hunger through his music. Was she out there? Yes, he believed so. Could that be the reason for the restlessness in his soul? Did that mean she was close by? He would soon know if she were here. Then it was just a matter of time before he found her.
"No, Damon. I haven't found her yet, but I know she's out there."
"How do you know?"
"I can't explain it. All I can say is there is restlessness in my soul, a stirring in my mind and heart, as though she's calling to me in her mind, in her dreams." Damn! Why hadn't he thought of that before? Was that what was wrong with him? Excitement rolled through him from head to toe, giving him a deep sense of purpose.
He quickly stood and rubbed his hands together. "Damn! I can't believe I didn't think of this before." With a smile, Joshua turned to Damon and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Thank you, my friend. You have helped me more than you know."
Damon said nothing. He just sat there looking dumbfounded.
Joshua laughed. "Never mind, I will explain it to you later." He glanced at his gold Rolex and noted the time. "But, right now I have work to do."
He strode toward the doors. Without turning, he called out over his shoulder, "Goodnight, Damon. You know the way out."
* * * *
Devra Preston listened to the soft strains of the sax, its soulful tune filling the air around her. The Moonlight Club was one of her favorite night spots in Chattanooga. She picked up her drink and sipped, feeling the icy-cold beer slide down her throat. She set her glass down and glanced once again at her watch. Seven-thirty! Where the hell was Susan? She was tardy, something that was very unusual for her. In all the years that Devra and Susan had been meeting for girls' night out, Susan was always on time. She might cancel, as she had been lately, but she was rarely late.
Devra snorted. Usually she was the one running behind. In college, Devra always stumbled into her first class ten minutes after the bell. Even after graduation, she still managed to run behind, no matter where she was headed. Sometimes it paid off and sometimes it didn't. That's how she'd met her now ex-husband, Trevor—one of the times it hadn't paid off.
Devra had been late on her first day of work at her uncle's newspaper. She could still remember rushing into the research office and running smack dab into Trevor, who, she soon discovered, just happened to be her boss. One thing led to another and in a few months the two were lovers. Within a year they married.
After marriage, things had gone downhill fast. Devra wanted more from her career than just researching stories and finding skeletons in the closet. She wanted a column of her own. Trevor hadn't wanted Devra to succeed in that, and had in fact, told her so. She could still hear the first time he'd said it. "Honey, you aren't a columnist. You're the best researcher we have. Do you honestly think Bob is going to take you out of here and move you up to an executive office with your name on the door and a column?" He'd laughed aloud. "I don't think so."
From that moment, their marriage had deteriorated until nothing but a shell was left. His constant criticism and insults dimmed the fire that had once burned hot in her heart and body. The sex dwindled to almost nothing, which actually hadn't bothered Devra too much. She had her trusty vibrator and a nice jet spa tub. At just the right angle, the spray jets could send her into orbit quicker than Trevor ever could.
Of course, catching Trevor in his office with a young assistant had hurried things along as well. Her illusions of love and "happily ever after" were irreparably shattered.
She would never fall in love again. Sex? Yes! But fall in love? Huh-uh … no way in hell would she get caught in that trap again.
Coming back to the present, Devra tossed back the rest of her beer and slammed the mug down on the square oak table. She looked at her watch again. Eight o'clock. "Okay, that's it, Susan James." Devra picked up her cell phone and punched in the familiar number. It rang several times, each ring making her level of impatience rise a bit higher. Just as the answering machine picked up, Susan hurried through the door of the club.
"It's about damn time," Devra grumbled as she turned off her cell.
Susan glanced around the room and finally spotted Devra. She gave a jaunty wave and made her way to the table, snagging a waiter's attention along the way. She tossed her leather briefcase and handbag down on the table and fell into the unoccupied chair.
"Sorry I'm late…" The waiter arrived just then, and both ladies gave their drink orders.
Once he was gone, Devra turned to Susan her brow lifting. "You were saying?"
Susan smoothed her head of blonde curls, somehow making them more tousled than before. "I said, sorry I'm late. I had a few things to clear up before I could leave." She laughed. "You know how it is running a successful magazine. No rest for the weary."
Devra narrowed her eyes and really looked at Susan. Something was going on here. Susan was fidgety, edgy, like she couldn't sit still. Her face was flushed a rosy color. If Devra didn't know better she would swear Susan had just come from a bout of heavy sex.
Was that why Susan had been canceling their Friday night meetings? Did she have a lover? Devra pondered the thought, rolling it around in her mind, trying to figure out who it could be and how long it had been going on. Hmm … curious.
Curiosity was probably why Devra was so damn good at her job and why she enjoyed it so much. She found it fascinating to delve deep into someone's background and discover all their little hidden secrets, bringing their skeletons out of the closet and into the light of day.
After her divorce, Devra had marched into her uncle's office and asked him to let her combine her research skills with writing. Declaring she was the best researcher he had, she'd promised him that if he didn't give her the chance to do more, he would lose her.
Convinced finally, her uncle had looked a bit shocked, but agreed to give her a chance. That was over five years ago. Her column was one of the most talked about and widely read in Chattanooga and throughout the state of Tennessee. Hell, it was big in Georgia, too. Such fame, she thought, grinning to herself.
All because of her curiosity. Well, hard work, too, lots of research and learning to read people.
Right now, Susan was easier to read than a Dr. Seuss book. Devra narrowed her eyes and watched Susan fiddle with her hair, and glance around the room. She looked everywhere but at Devra. Hmm … it was time for the interrogation to begin. Silently, Devra giggled with glee, but her face was expressionless. Just the way she needed it to be to entice Susan into spilling her guts.
The waiter came with their drinks. After he departed, Devra turned to Susan. "So Sus, what have you been up to lately?" The use of her pet name for Susan would lure her into a false sense of safety. A security net, if you will. By studying her subjects, learning all she could about them, even the tiniest details that others would overlook, Devra always got what she was looking for. Sometimes she got more.
Susan shifted nervously and took a sip of her drink. "Um … work," she said too brightly. "You know how it is. Every time one thing gets straightened out, something else pops up." Susan downed the rest of her drink and signaled the waiter for another.
Devra mentally rubbed her hands together in delight. So it was a man. Now, was it serious or simply sex?
Part of their bond was because they'd both suffered a deep hurt at the hands of a stupid son-of-a-bitch, and neither of them wanted to get serious with one man ever again. Granted, they didn't have sex fests. They were very discriminating about their partners and never strayed from the sexual excitement of the moment. Of course, in Devra's case, her trusty vibrator was her lover more often than not. It always hit the right spots, heightened the pleasure, and at the right time brought her to an explosive, orgasmic release that satiated her body.
But, she had to admit a vibrator didn't come close in comparison to having a man. Suddenly, she felt the tension that built when a man slid his hard length inside her slick heat, plunging in slow measured strokes, bringing her closer and closer to the edge until she finally went over…
She gasped at her own arousal. Good heavens! Maybe it was time to indulge in a little sexual recreation with a live man.
A hand waving before her eyes drew her back to the present. "Yoo-hoo, Devra."
Shit! She must have gone off into a fantasy world for a minute or two. By the questioning look on Susan's face it had been far longer than it should have been.
"Sorry, I was just thinking." She picked up her drink, not surprised to see her hand trembling slightly. How could it not? My God, she was sitting here horny as hell, and daydreaming about a man. What else could her body do but respond?
"Uh-huh," Susan replied amusement in her tone. "I bet I can guess what you were thinking."
"Yes, but we aren't discussing me, now are we? Want to tell me what his name is and if he's any good?" Devra watched a flush creep up Susan's neck, and cover her face making it a nice shade of red.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Susan picked up her drink and took a healthy swallow.
"Oh, yes you do. Now give me details. Is he the reason you've been skipping out on me every Friday night?"
Susan lowered her eyes and stared at the tabletop.
Devra cocked her head to the side and eyed her friend with great interest. It had been a long time since she'd seen Susan blush.
She was about to speak when Susan raised her head and looked directly at her. "It's not what you think … er … exactly."
"Really? Then what is it?"
"Have you ever listened to something that was so deep and soulful that you couldn't think, couldn't breathe?"
Devra shook her head. "No." She waited to see where Susan was going with this.
"A few weeks ago, right here in this club, I heard a guy play the piano. I mean really play. I didn't pay attention at first because I was so focused on him. God, he was gorgeous. His long black hair and dark eyes drew me like a moth to a flame."
Devra sighed. "Susan," she said in a warning tone.
Susan waved her hand. "Okay, okay. Anyway, I started listening to his music and it was like my insides caught fire. Every note he played struck a chord in my body, setting it off. I swear to God, by the time he was done I was so hot all I could think about was finding a man and fucking him senseless."
Devra snickered, and then laughed aloud. She couldn't help it. Susan's words were hilarious. She knew her friend was pulling her leg. "Shit, Susan, you really had me going for a minute there."
Devra didn't listen, she just forged on. "I mean a man who plays the piano and makes you want to fuck. Hell, listen to some jazz at home, grab your trusty vibrator and have at it. What do you need a man for?"
"Devra. Listen to me. This guy is different. His music is different. I'm telling you there's a story there."
"And what would the headline be, "Man Brings Audience To An Explosive Climax By Stroking The Piano Keys?" Devra shook her head and picked up her drink.
Susan opened her purse and took out a mini tape recorder. She set it on the table. "Shut up and listen." She pushed the on button and a low melodic tune filled the air, surrounding Devra with heat and fire. Her breath caught and her nipples hardened with each note played. Devra set her drink down with a thud.
"What the hell?" She continued to listen to the poignant playing. Her body was in total meltdown, her clit throbbing to the beat of the song. What was happening?
Suddenly the music stopped and Devra opened her eyes. Opened them? When had she closed them?
She glanced across the table at Susan to find her sitting there with an "I told you so" look on her face.
"Okay, you've got my attention. What's the deal?"
Susan leaned forward and spoke softly. "His name is Joshua Thomas and he's drop-dead gorgeous. His looks alone could make you cream your panties."
Devra rolled her eyes. "Come on, Susan, get real. No man is that damn good."
"He is. His eyes are dreamy yet dangerous looking. When he looks at you, it's like you're the only one in the room. Like he's playing just for you."
Even though she thought the whole conversation was utter nonsense, Devra had to admit she was definitely intrigued. If what Susan said was true, this man was every woman's dream and probably the star of many X-rated fantasies. It sounded like this Joshua Thomas would make a great story for her column.
The ideas and possibilities flittered in her mind, flirting along the edges of her consciousness. It had been a long time since a man had caught her interest. Especially one she'd never laid eyes on.
This was too much! What in the hell was she thinking? It was ridiculous and yet, she couldn't seem to stop thinking about it. But she needed more to go on, like where was he playing? How often did he play? Did he have a wife, mistress, or lover? Her mind whirled, her instincts kicked into overdrive. Oh yeah! This man was definitely top priority for her.
"Susan, when and where is he playing again?"
"Tomorrow night, right here." Her eyes narrowed. "Why?"
Devra sat back in her chair, a cocky grin widening her mouth. "Because I've decided to see exactly what Mr. Joshua Thomas is all about."
Susan slid the mini-recorder toward Devra. "Somehow I knew you would say that, but fair warning. Be ready for the ride of your life." Susan drank the rest of her drink, collected her purse, and flitted out the door, leaving Devra with the bill and a question.
What the heck did she mean by her parting statement? Be ready for the ride of your life. She snorted. Was the man going to give her a ride on his piano?
Damn, if she couldn't wait to find out. Now all she had to do was convince her uncle to let her do a story on the mysterious Joshua Thomas. Which wasn't going to be easy, unless she found something unusual about the guy.
Devra motioned for the waiter and the check. "Can you tell me how often Joshua Thomas plays here?"
"He plays here every Saturday night. There's a poster by the door with all the information on it. Check it out on your way out." With a smirk, he mumbled, "Here comes another Saturday regular," then left Devra pondering her next move. Research! That was the ticket. "No time like the present."
Devra gathered up her purse and headed for the door, stopping long enough to check out the poster. Disappointment filled her when she found there was no picture of Joshua, nothing at all, just times and dates for his next performance. That didn't deter her, though. If anything, it made her all the more determined to find out all she could about the mysterious piano player.
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