Author: Tara Vasser
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
Cover Designer: Dawn Til Dusk Designs
Models: Chase and Mandy Borst
Publisher: Winter Musings LLC
Publication Date: April 11, 2019
Blurb: Buried as punishment for a crime he didn’t commit, Endre has nothing but time to plot revenge on his betrayer. Salvation arrives when an archaeology student unwittingly exhumes his coffin and provides him with the first blood he’s tasted in nearly a century.
Upon awakening from an attack by a creature she never imagined actually existed, Nora discovers she is now his hostage. Forced to accompany Endre from Italy to Paris on a quest for vengeance, she is thrust into his dark and forbidden world where she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the Vampire. Lust runs rampant throughout the course of their journey and Nora begins to question if the irresistible connection between them is more than mere biology.
Tara Vasser is a wicked writer who lives in the frozen north in Minnesota with her wonderful husband and two rambunctious little dudes. She is an engineer during the day, a crazy mom in the afternoon and a writer at night. She enjoys spending her time playing in the dirt when her gardens aren’t covered in snow and listening to a wide variety of music that inspires her writing – sometimes doing both at the same time.
1923 – Italy
Endre sat beneath the shadow of a massive cork tree in his garden, reading the newspaper as he watched the first rays of sunshine peek over the hills to the east. It was a pity he could not give his full attention to the beautiful view, his mind burdened with the troubling headlines. Folding the paper with a deep sigh, he pushed the paper and his thoughts of Mussolini’s latest moves to overtake parliament to the side. Perhaps it was time to leave Italy and move on to greener pastures. There was an ominous scent in the wind, and it spoke of the death and destruction on the horizon.
Endre was no stranger to war and chaos, having been born a warrior. When conflicts arose in the world around him, his hands always itched to take up sword and shield. But of course, those days of ending wars with steel were over. Now, the weapons of choice were guns and bombs. There was no honor in that. No promises of glory or feasting in the halls of Valhalla when so little skill and preparation was involved.
Valhalla or no, the political climate of this region was no longer hospitable to his research. Secrecy was completely necessary, and the alliances Gregor had forged to provide Endre with supplies for his lab would not stand the threat this new breed of fascism posed. Glancing over at the horizon, he frowned. He had been out here long enough; it was time to retire for the day, and he would allow his dreams to conjure his next moves and put new plans into place when twilight fell. Endre picked up his paper and made his way toward the door when the noise of automobile tires crunching over the gravel drive and shouting stilled his movement.
“Back here! In the garden!” a voice hollered from the garden entrance.
A man dressed impeccably in a suit with a homburg gracing his head stood at the entrance of the sanctuary. Endre did not recall his name, he only knew the man as one of Lorenzo’s bodyguards. The man gestured wildly in Endre’s direction.
Several more of Lorenzo’s bodyguards filed in behind him, posturing menacingly.
Confused, Endre watched the men as they lined the perimeter of his garden, violating his last few moments before the sun crested over the hill. “What is this? Where is Lorenzo?” he scoffed, standing his ground when they surrounded him where he stood, preparing to fight if the need arose.
“I am here,” Lorenzo’s French-accented voice called leisurely from the garden entrance as he strolled forward and casually buttoned his suit jacket.
Sighing with relief, Endre relaxed at the sight of his friend.
Lorenzo sauntered into the garden lazily, stopping to inspect a blossom before meandering his way through his men to stand in front of Endre.
“And to what do I owe this honor?” Endre questioned suspiciously, watching Lorenzo carefully. It was much too close to dawn for them to be conducting business.
“Endre, you have been charged with murder,” Lorenzo recited in a bored voice, placing his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels.
Endre’s head jerked back as if he had been struck. Murder? He was being charged with murder? “And who is it exactly that I am supposed to have killed?” Endre demanded, outrage making his voice boom through the still morning air.
“Count La Rossa.” Lorenzo sighed sadly. “Why did you do it, Endre?”
“You cannot be serious.” Endre balked, sure this was some prank. “Gregor is dead?”
The men surrounding him took a step closer, as if of one mind.
“I did not kill Gregor,” Endre protested, though he found himself falling back on his training from another life and crouched into a fighting stance.
Several more men joined the mob, men from Gregor’s guard, flanking Endre now with more than a dozen men. At most, he could take out half of them before they would bring him down, leaving another half dozen to beat him mercilessly and likely kill him in the process—merely for resisting. Any defiance would be futile, but he would not go down without a fight, especially for a false charge.
Lorenzo shook his head sadly at Endre’s change in demeanor, as if his instincts of self-preservation condemned him of the crimes for which he was accused. Lorenzo raised his voice loud so all the men could hear him. “Endre, you are hereby charged with the murder of Count Gregor La Rossa. Your brothers here will serve as judge, jury, and executioners of your sentence. The traditional punishment for such a crime, as you are well aware, is burial. Your death by starvation will serve as justice by the old laws laid forth by The Council. Guards, seize him and prepare him for his punishment.” Then, turning back to Endre, he taunted, “I think we will bury you here in your beloved garden.”
Several of the guards pulled out pistols and made moves toward Endre.
Cowards, of course, they would not face him without firearms.
Endre lashed out, but he had only his fists. He managed to knock two of the guards to the ground before they had him pinned to the moldering leaves in the dirt.
Fists were no match for bullets.
Watching with one eye—the other caked in blood and dirt—three men began digging his grave beneath the large tree and another two hauled a plain coffin through the garden gates.
At the sight of the coffin, Endre redoubled his struggled to break free. “Lorenzo, this is nonsense. Gregor was my oldest friend and confidant. He was like a brother to me, just as you are. I would never harm him. What is the evidence against me? I demand a trial with The Council. It is my right,” he spoke around the dirt in his mouth.
Scowling down at him disapprovingly, Lorenzo approached slowly. He stooped and picked up Endre’s fallen fedora, brushing dirt from the fabric.
An entreating glance at Lorenzo earned Endre naught but a kick to the face. This man was no friend. Endre wondered if he had ever been. Blood from a gash above his eye poured down his face, but healed almost as quickly as it occurred, leaving dried blood caked to his eyelashes. Through crusted lashes, he watched as Lorenzo stood above him and removed his own hat, placing Endre’s atop his head instead.
Smiling, Lorenzo gave a nod of approval at Endre’s taste in men’s fashion and tossed his hat to one of the men standing guard, inciting a round of chuckles from his henchmen.
Fury boiled in Endre’s veins as his ‘friend’ betrayed him and made light of the unlawful punishment he dealt. How could Lorenzo believe Endre capable of such a crime? It was unlike Lorenzo to dole out consequence without following proper protocol.
Unless Lorenzo had something to hide. Something he worried The Council would unearth if the matter were brought to trial.
Realization sunk like a stone in Endre’s gut as he put the pieces together.
When the guards finished digging the grave, the men casually tossed the coffin into the pit at Lorenzo’s gesture. The dull thud sent a chill through Endre. He continued to struggle against his captors, but with three of them now detaining him, he received nothing but a pistol whip to the head and kicks to his ribs.
With a nod from Lorenzo, the guards hauled Endre to his feet and dragged him toward the yawning opening of the coffin awaiting him. At the foot of the open box, two of the guards held his arms while one bound his hands in front of him with thick rope. Endre let out a shout when one man grabbed his hair and held his head back so he gazed directly into the lightening sky. From the corner of his eye, Endre watched Lorenzo pull a wicked-looking dagger from a sheath at his hip. The blade glinted with the light of the rising sun, a shining omen of Endre’s imminent demise.
“Lorenzo, please,” Endre spoke to the man before him, the man he had considered a friend until this day, “I—”
Lorenzo only gave Endre a devious grin and prevented any more words from escaping his lips with a quick slash of his blade across Endre’s neck. Blood cascaded from his neck and he choked as it drained into his throat. Within seconds, the wound had already begun to heal itself, the blood flow stanched. Lorenzo’s blade dashed out again, performing the same motion across the nearly-healed laceration. Again, Endre choked and sputtered on his own warm blood and any words he wished to speak.
Light-headed from the blood loss, Endre fell to his knees. The guards holding him stepped back and left him with Lorenzo glowering down at him. Endre’s head lolled to the side and he was barely clinging to consciousness. All it took was a well-placed kick from Lorenzo and he fell backward into his new prison.
Several of the guards made a move to place the lid on the coffin, but Lorenzo stayed their movement with a wave of his hand. “Leave us. I want to speak to this murderous traitor alone before we leave him to the worms,” Lorenzo ordered, his eyes never leaving Endre’s fading ones.
Several murmurs went through the small crowd. That was not the way. Tradition and adherence to the old laws stated the sentence must be carried out before an amassing of the people, so all could witness what fate befell a murderer of his own kind.
“Leave us!” Lorenzo roared, turning to stare down each man in turn.
The guards filed from the garden, leaving Endre with Lorenzo and his bloody blade.
Lorenzo couched so his face was close to Endre’s.
Endre only wished enough blood had still flowed in his veins so he could reach out and relieve Lorenzo of the triumphant smile gracing his lips.
“Endre,” Lorenzo whispered with a sigh, “I warned you not to approach Gregor to back your research, and yet you did. Not only that, expressing wishes to distribute your cure at no cost?” Lorenzo tsked and shook his head. “He would have done it, too. Threatened to expose me for lack of loyalty to our people. Unfortunately, he miscalculated. The man was too much of a philanthropist for his own good. He never did understand the power his money held. Such a waste. And here we are. Someone has to take the fall for Gregor’s death and justice must be served. It might as well be you. His blood is on your hands as much as mine, all because you could not follow simple directions. We could have profited from this together, you and I. I would kill you now if it would not upset the delicate sensibilities of our people. But alas, I cannot. Perhaps in a century or two, I will come check on you and finish the task when everyone has forgotten your existence.”
Endre glared up at Lorenzo, the lack of blood preventing his wounds from healing and allowing him to foil his new enemy’s plans.
“But do not worry,” Lorenzo continued, brushing dirt from his trousers. “I will not let your research go to waste. I still have plans for the work you have done, but perhaps an adjustment here and there to suit my own needs.”
Endre only had the faintest inkling of what kind of dastardly plans Lorenzo was concocting, but the malicious smile gracing his lips was indication enough that it would not be good.
Rising to his feet, Lorenzo glanced down impassively at Endre once more. “You should have listened to me, old friend. Now, you will have plenty of time to think on your cure and the error of your ways while you rot in your grave,” Lorenzo spat out with a maniacal laugh. Bending over, he slashed out with his blade one last time.
Endre felt the slightest trickle of blood ooze from the cut, so little of the liquid remained in his body.
At a shouted order from Lorenzo, the guards all marched back into the garden.
Endre attempted to alert them to Lorenzo’s treachery, but the only sound from his mangled throat was a pained moan. The lid of the coffin was lowered, blocking out the dazzling sunshine of the new morning, and hammers pounded out the finality of his death sentence. The last glimpse Endre had of Lorenzo was a mocking tip of the hat, his hat.
This box would not hold Endre forever, and when he rose, he intended to rain down retribution, and when he came for Lorenzo, it would be all-out war. The last thing he could hear between his own thoughts of revenge and each shovelful of dirt falling on the wooden box was Lorenzo whistling happily with the belief he had gotten away with his crimes.