Mist and Midnight

The Talbot Trilogy, Prequel

by Tori L. Ridgewood

* Also available in ebook & print formats in the anthology "Midnight Thirsts"

Stalked by a cruel and relentless vampire, Charlotte is on the run. Fleeing the city, the powers of magick her only protection, she couldn't afford to fall for the hot modern prospector Pike Mahonen. Can she avoid temptation in a small town, to keep them both safe?


Chapter One


When the train slowed and shuddered to a halt without any warning, Charlotte was able to stop her artist’s portfolio from sliding off the vinyl seat opposite with one rapidly and strategically placed foot. Protecting her prints and unfinished work took highest priority, which was why she whipped one long limb out from under her before thinking to grab the slim-line smartphone that just as swiftly rocketed onto the floor. Bracing the portfolio more firmly with her grey calfskin satchel, she cursed softly as she reached down to find her hopefully still-intact phone and the knee-high Marc Jacobs black suede and leather button boots she had taken off and stowed under the seat. Charlotte craned her neck when she bobbed upward from her search, trying to see through the patches of early morning September mist outside the 360 degree concave Plexiglas window. A sign made bleary by the fog read North Bay; she sighed with frustration, and then again with growing anxiety, chewing on her upper lip. Only a few hours remained of the long journey north from Toronto, where she would finally be safe from the malevolent being following her every move and they were stopped again!

And the loss of momentum did nothing to ease the nagging feeling that something not right, not natural, was still lurking just out of sight. She shivered, finally locating the mobile under the adjacent seat. Checking its functions, she gave up for the moment on her boots to fish instead in her purse for hand sanitizer and a lipstick. After removing floor grit from her fingers, she began to carefully reapply colour to her lips—the light plum shade would do nothing to protect her from her stalker, but somehow made her feel better, like psychological armor. The light outside the passenger car was dim enough still that the glass beside her functioned as a mirrored surface. It also enabled her to unobtrusively scan her surroundings, while she cast a search-and-protect spell around herself. Just as the magick dissipated, rippling into the air, without detecting any immediate peril, her eyes caught the amused gaze of a man in a dark brown jacket. Pausing, before slowly putting a final coat on her full lips and pressing to blot, she registered not only that he was scanning her in return, he was grinning appreciatively at her—and holding her boots.

It was no wonder her guard had gone up, with a man like this nearby. Of course, he wasn’t nearly as threatening as the vampire who’d stalked her from the shadows for over a year, but he was putting her on edge, just the same. How long, exactly, had he been observing her before she’d noticed him? Long legs clothed in clean, worn denim led to a battered, dark chocolate brown leather bomber, straining over broad shoulders; the high shearling collar was opened, exposing a collarless blue linen shirt. His grin widened as she turned and he held up her Marc Jacobs. Charlotte was startled by the beautiful strangeness of his eyes—silvery grey irises bordered by a fine line of deep blue. For a moment, she wondered how it might feel to touch the mahogany hair curling slightly over his forehead and just under his ears, to brush her palm over the dark caramel stubble on his jaw—would it feel deliciously coarse and masculine, or soft and velvety like a cat? He ran the tip of his tongue over his upper lip, and Charlotte shivered with a sudden wave of longing, bringing her back to herself. She couldn’t afford to fall for anyone, she knew, or even to have a friend—it was still too dangerous. Swallowing the unintentional reaction, she narrowed her eyes, and held her hand out for the boots.

Pike had thought nothing would ever surprise him in this world again, and then the train had stopped when he was about to pass this incredible creature. Physical balance had never been a problem for him; he could keep his feet on a tossing crab ship in the north Pacific when the ice was slick and the waves were high, and squirrel up among the uppermost branches of a West Coast pine without fear. So why, when he met the forthright, challenging gaze of those hazel eyes, was he suddenly feeling like he was falling? He’d definitely enjoyed the spectacle as she’d searched for her things, especially her finely shaped bottom wiggling around in that short, soft-looking burgundy wrap-dress while she retrieved her cell phone. Her boots had slid right to his feet just behind her, but he’d taken his time in picking them up—the show was too good to miss. By the time she’d turned to the window to put on her lipstick—an action he’d always thought of for any woman as being enticingly erotic—the hem of her dress had risen much farther past her knees than she’d known, revealing several inches of smooth, honey-toned thigh above thinly banded silk knee-highs. And then she’d caught him watching in the reflection of the glass, and turned around to blast him to cinders with her glare. For a moment, the high cheeks of her heart-shaped face had flushed, and her eyes widened with something he thought he recognized as desire, before she’d shut that down to project indignant cool. She snapped the tube of colour closed, her eyes flashing. He suppressed a chuckle, widening his smile as she sniffed and reached out for her footwear, obviously expecting him to kneel like a high-class shoe salesman in some downtown boutique. Her breasts, round and perky under the v-neck of her dress, rose as she took a breath and sighed. Oh, he was enjoying himself all right.¬†

¬†Charlotte’s face burned as his eyes wandered down her body, roving over her curves. Choosing cool indifference over red-hot anger, she inhaled slowly to slow her heart, crossing her legs as she pulled the hem of her dress back down. Highly aware that he was probably mentally stripping away the layers of her clothing—and deciding to ignore the fact that she had been imagining his body as well—she waited for him to pass over her boots. When he didn’t still didn’t move, she gave up on polite nonchalance.

“Good morning,” she stated, dropping her hand. “Do you know why the train has stopped?”

“You’re not going to ask for these?”

“Excuse me?”

His eyes twinkled. “Cinderella only lost one,” he explained, “and she was probably nice enough to say please when it was given back. Though, these are clearly not tiny little things meant for dancing.” The bass tenor of his voice raised goosebumps on her skin. She chose to ignore the way it was making her quiver.

"Mist and Midnight" by Tori L. Ridgewood


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