Home > Cross Your Heart (Broken Heart #7)

Cross Your Heart (Broken Heart #7)
Author: Michele Bardsley

Chapter 1

“You wanna make out?”asked the man standing on my welcome mat. He cocked a pierced eyebrow at me, leaned on the doorjamb, and tucked his hands into his pockets. The gesture flexed his muscled, tattooed arms, drawing attention to the six-pack abs defined by his tight T-shirt.

He was gorgeous and youthful and impetuous.

“Rand, you make me feel old.” I caved in to the smile flirting with my lips. “And I’m immortal.”

His grin widened. “Aw, Lizzie. You’re tops in my book.”

“Don’t call me Lizzie. It’s puerile.” I opened the door and gestured for him to enter. “C’mon. It’s ready.”

Now twenty-two, Rand moved to Broken Heart when he was seventeen. As a human, he was a rarity in a town filled with paranormal residents. He was also the expert on the care and feeding of dragons.

I was forty-three when Lorcan O’Halloran, or rather the beast he’d become, attacked and killed me and ten other residents of Broken Heart, Oklahoma. He suffered from the Taint, a disease that reduced the infected vampire to a crazed and rabid state. A cure had recently been discovered, thanks in large part to the revelation of its origins: demon poison. Our resident scientist, Dr. Stan Michaels, himself a Turn-blood, had figured out a real and lasting cure. The Taint was no more.

Every vampire got strength, speed, glamour, and—unless our heads were chopped off or sunlight got us—immortality. There were eight vampire Families, each with their own particular power. I was from the Family Zela, and our ability was to manipulate and control any metallic substance.

As a human, I hadn’t been able to conquer my vanity about getting older. Going under the knife, taking the injection, getting the acid peel . . . I had done them all. However, becoming undead rid me of crow’s-feet, stretch marks, and cellulite, and forestalled other atrocities of the aging process.

“I’ll make tea,” I said as he stepped inside and shut the door.

“Earl Grey?” he asked.

“Of course.”

Though I enjoyed my solitary lifestyle, I couldn’t resist having a cuppa with whoever crossed my threshold. Thanks to an accidental fairy wish, vampires within the borders of Broken Heart could eat again and drink liquids other than blood. I had missed taking tea and had been pleased to reestablish the routine.

My old Victorian opened into a wide foyer. Straight ahead was the staircase to the upper floor. On the left side was entrance to the formal living room. On the right side was a smaller room, the parlor, where I typically entertained visitors.

Rand paused by the antique hall tree. He studied it, then glanced at me. “New?”

“Yes. It’s French. Hand-carved oak. Circa 1870. See the hooks? They’re cherubs.” The darkened wood had been polished with beeswax. I’d fallen in love with the piece merely from its picture. eBay was a glorious boon for vampires. “The bench seat opens.” I flipped it up and we looked down into the emptiness.

Rand shook his head. “You’ve got a thing for old stuff.”

“So do you.” I tweaked his earlobe, and he laughed.

The kitchen was accessed through a narrow door at the back of the parlor. While Rand took a seat at the small table I used for tea service, I went to the kitchen and put on the kettle.

“Hey, I forgot!” Rand called from the parlor. “Patsy gave me something for you. Said they found it in the attic and it belongs to you.”

I poked my head into the parlor. “I’ve told her a hundred times that whatever she finds, she can have or toss out.”

He shrugged. “I’ll go get it.”

While Rand went to get whatever it was, I returned to the kitchen and cleaned up a mess I’d made earlier during a botched attempt at making scones. I heard the front door open and shut, and then Rand’s steps in the foyer.

“Elizabeth.”

A man’s voice seemed to come from right behind me. It vibrated with fury. I swore I felt big male hands creep around my neck.

Startled, I whirled around, my hand pressed against my chest. My palm flattened over the spot where my heart no longer beat.

Nobody was there.

The kitchen was small. I’d kept it simple during the renovation, thinking it pointless for me to even have one. The cabinets were whitewashed, the countertops and walls a cheery yellow, and the floor, like the rest of the house, was polished oak. About the only place for someone to hide was the pantry. I opened the door but saw only the fully stocked shelves and, in the back, cleaning equipment neatly aligned on wall hooks.

Unnerved, I returned to the stove and opened the cabinet that held my tea stashes. I pulled down a tin and pried its lid off, and looked down into the dark loose leaves. They smelled strong and fragrant, like good tea should.

“Elizabeth.” The voice was stronger now. Insistent. I had excellent hearing, thanks to my vampire ears, but this wasn’t someone speaking from a distance. The man calling my name did not like me. I had the uneasy feeling he wanted to hurt me. Foreboding sat in my belly as solid and heavy as an iron weight.

Pain throbbed around my neck.

“Hey, you need help?”

I yelped, dropping the tin. It bounced and rolled, its contents spilling onto the floor.

“Shit,” said Rand. “I didn’t mean to scare you.” He crossed to the mess and picked up the container. “I don’t think there’s much left.”

“I have another one.” I hesitated. “Did you hear anyone just now?”

He frowned. “Who?” He glanced around the kitchen the same way I had. “You think someone’s in the house?”

I shook my head, feeling foolish. “Never mind. I’m being silly.”

“You’re a lot of things, Lizzie, but silly isn’t one of ’em.” He grimaced. “I mean, you know, that you’re mature.” He slapped a hand against his forehead. “I’m not saying you’re not fun, just that you’re serious.”

His face went red. I swallowed my laugh and reached for the second tin of Earl Grey so he wouldn’t see my amused expression.

“Maybe you should stop complimenting me,” I offered, “and go get the broom.”

“Yeah,” he said, sounding relieved. “I’ll clean up the mess. No prob.”

“Where’s the all-important thing?” I asked.

“I left it inside the hall tree.”

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