A Clash of Moonlight Chapter One

Chapter One

The wineglass shattered in Nora’s hand, temporarily disrupting the steady chatter in the wine bar.

Jennifer cursed. Tasha half rose out of her chair.

“God, are you okay?” their waitress asked, showering the table with little white napkins.

“I’m fine,” Nora said. The stem had sliced across her palm. Blood mixed with the cabernet that dripped to the floor. Good thing she’d chosen red tonight.

“I’m so sorry,” the waitress said. “I’ll get you another glass. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes.” Nora’s voice was icy.

The waitress rushed off.

Probably too icy. It wasn’t the waitress’s fault. Nothing had been wrong with the wineglass. Nora had simply crushed it in frustration.

“Are you sure you’re not cut?” Jennifer asked.

Nora almost didn’t hear her friend’s question. Something pulsed nearby, the aura of another paranorm. Vampire most likely, roused by the smell of her blood.

She waited another second for her cut hand to heal, then she showed Jennifer her palm. “It’s fine.”

Satisfied, Jennifer sat back in her chair. “I knew you’d be upset but not that upset.”

The words were meant as a joke. Both humans laughed. Nora forced a cool smile to her lips as well. Her friends didn’t know about the paranormal world. They would never understand the extent of her unrest. It wasn’t just the wolf that wanted to crawl out of her skin. She was drowning, smothered by the weight of an ocean filled with the demands and expectations of the most powerful alpha on the planet. Powerful because of his dominance over his wolves, both physically and supernaturally, and powerful because he controlled access to the only Null zone in existence, a place where the moonsick could go to quiet their connections to their packs and to escape the violent influence of the full moon.

That alpha also happened to be her father.

“What if we talk to your dad?” Tasha asked. “Would that help?”

Nora snorted. “No.”

The waitress returned with a new glass and another apology. “This one’s on the house.”

“No need,” Nora said. “I’ll pay.” This little outing was a silent rebellion. It was time with her human friends and Swirl’s most expensive bottle of wine, the latter of which she was paying for with her father’s money.

By the glass.

Because it cost more.

Tasha stabbed a toothpick into a cube of cheese. “The perfect apartment just became available. It’s within walking distance of the beach.”

“And we really need another person to split the rent with,” Jennifer said. She lifted her glass of wine in the air and added, “Someone with money to burn.”

She would burn all the money at her disposal if she could move to California—if she could move anywhere away from here—but not only had her father denied her permission to leave his territory, he’d forbidden her from asking about it again. He’d put his power as alpha behind his order. It had wrapped around her, tightening her throat and preventing any protest.

Rage built under her skin again. She set down her glass so she didn’t launch it into the wall.

Or into the head of the vampire who drifted closer. He was somewhere behind her. She couldn’t get a feel for his age. Maybe he was young and stupid and would look at her wrong. She was in a killing mood tonight.

“You know, you’re an adult,” Jennifer said, a finger tracing the rim of her glass. “He can’t really tell you what to do.”

Who would have thought Nora could be envious of a human? How easy life would be if she could simply defy her father and ignore the orders of wolves who outranked her, especially when she was more dominant than many of them. But she had no place in the pack’s chain of command. She was something outside of it, never allowed to officially fight for a position, always guessing when she was supposed to act like a normal werewolf or act like the alpha’s daughter.

“Have you told Craig you’re moving?” Nora asked, changing the subject.

“I mentioned I was thinking about it. I’ll tell him next…” Jennifer’s gaze lifted. She focused behind Nora, and her finger froze on her glass rim.

“Holy shit,” her friend whispered, a look of pure lust crossing her face. The smell of her arousal was immediate and potent. So was Tasha’s as soon as she focused on the thing, the vampire, that had captured Jennifer’s attention.

The paranorm stopped beside their table. “Join me.”

Those two words whispered across Nora’s skin like a silk scarf. The vampire’s eyes were as dark as the clothes he wore. They were set into a face that projected strength—strong cheekbones, strong jaw, strong shoulders that led into a strong, hard body. His age was indeterminate, but he wasn’t young. His posture held too much authority, and his years, his experiences, added a richer scent to his aura, the invisible atmosphere that surrounded all paranormal beings. Everything about him was dark and treacherous and sinfully beautiful.

The arousal perfuming the air increased, distracting Nora for another moment before her instinct kicked in. Her ire. There was no way the vampire did not know she was a wolf, yet he encroached on her table, her territory, her friends.

“Of course,” Jennifer said, her face flushed.

“No.” The single syllable whipped from Nora’s mouth, countering the vampire’s compulsion.

Jennifer froze midstand. It wasn’t out of character for her to go off with an attractive man, but this was a vampire who could strip a human of her choices just as effectively as an alpha took away a wolf’s. Nora would not let her friends become dinner, especially not for an arrogant asshole who had yet to acknowledge Nora’s presence.

Jennifer’s gaze shifted between Nora and the vampire. “Would you like to sit with us?”

“He would like to go,” Nora said.

The vampire held his hand out to Jennifer. “I have a private table.”

“This table was private until you walked up.” Still, he didn’t glance Nora’s way.

Jennifer straightened. She reached for his hand.

“Sit down,” Nora ordered.

Jennifer’s attention snapped to her. Nora held her gaze, letting her will ensnare her friend. It was something she usually tried not to do, but she had to counter the vampire’s compulsion, had to show him that he had chosen the wrong night, the wrong place, and the wrong person to stalk.

“I would enjoy dinner with you,” the vampire said, his hand still held out.

“Find someone else.” Nora’s voice came out in a snarl, and finally the vampire looked at her. His focus moved slowly from her face to her neck to her breasts.

“She is the most beautiful woman in this establishment.” The words were a deliberate slight, an insult saying she was nothing and nobody. That she was insignificant.

Jennifer placed her hand in the vampire’s. “My name is Jennifer.”

“Jennifer,” he repeated, returning that dark gaze to the human. “Come.”

Jennifer threw her an apologetic look but let the vampire lead her away from their table. Jaw slack, Nora watched them walk toward the hallway that led to the restrooms and back exit.

The bastard had stolen from her. He’d subverted her dominance and taken away her friend.

He couldn’t be local. Vampires and werewolves might tolerate each other elsewhere, but here near the foothills of the Appalachians, in her father’s territory, he and the vampire master, Arcuro, vied for power and influence. They avoided war only by respecting the claims of the other paranorms, claims of both people and property. This vampire had transgressed.

She stood in one fast, fluid motion.

“I’ll be back,” she said to Tasha. She had to move, to act. She could feel the wolf waiting under her skin, just one small explosion from bursting out to kill.

Maybe Nora would taste blood tonight. She could almost feel her teeth sinking into the vampire, could almost feel his throat collapsing between her jaws.

Her mouth was watering by the time she reached the hallway. Her fingernails dug into the skin of her palms. The vampire stood looking down at Jennifer. She beamed up at him and pressed herself against his body, completely enraptured.

“You are interrupting,” the vampire said, sliding a finger down the side of Jennifer’s neck.

“You are dead.” She grabbed Jennifer’s arm and yanked her away.

“Nor-a!” Her friend mangled her name.

“Go back to the table. Get Tasha. Leave,” she ordered. The vampire’s gaze met Nora’s. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. Her hold on Jennifer’s arm slipped, and something—distress, alarm, hunger—plunged through her stomach.

This vampire was old. Much older than he let on. He was muting his aura, letting only a little scent the air.

“You are interrupting,” the vampire said again, his deep, cultured voice vibrating through the air.

Nora’s fury returned. “You are out of line.”

“I’m okay,” Jennifer said. “Really.” She turned back toward the vampire.

Nora did not release her arm. Even if this asshole had not been an arrogant prick, she would never let his kind chew on her friend’s neck. She waited until Jennifer looked at her again. “You need to go.”

The vampire’s entrancement battled with Nora’s compulsion. She’d already been on edge because of her father’s stranglehold on her life. With the full moon only a night away—a fact this vampire should know—she itched to unleash violence and bloodshed. She would take out her frustration on this fool who thought she was just some young werewolf to dismiss.

She yanked again on Jennifer’s arm, this time swinging her free hand at the vampire’s throat. He took an unhurried step backward.

Unhurried?

She should slaughter him.