Saturday Excerpt: Moonlight and Diamonds by Michele Hauf
In Michele Hauf’s new paranormal romance, a werewolf and a socialite come from two very different worlds — but have one shared destiny. Read an excerpt from Moonlight and Diamonds below, available now from Harlequin Nocturne.
About the Book:
Like the jewels she stole, Paris socialite Blyss Sauveterre is someone to be handled carefully. Stryke Saint-Pierre discovered that when the beautiful thief used their attraction to pilfer an infamous diamond. But when they make love, Stryke senses that—just like the gems she covets—Blyss has more facets to her than meet the eye…
Blyss cannot let the brutish werewolf know that these heists pay for an elixir to keep her wolf at bay. Until her latest theft puts a pack of deadly demons hot on her trail. Now the redneck werewolf is this socialite’s only salvation. But when the danger is past, dare Blyss succumb to the desire to let her inner wolf run wild with a man who represents all she could ever want?
Stryke Saint-Pierre chuckled at the power sneeze that had blown out of Summer Santiago’s two-year-old mouth. Her dad, Vail, instead of wiping his daughter’s nose and cooing reassurance, lifted his head and fiercely scanned up and down the Parisian street. They stood before the Hawkes Associates building, along with Rhys Hawkes, Vail’s stepfather. The trio were enjoying the cloudy day and discussing Rhys’s need for help.
“See any?” Rhys, a tall, salty-haired half vampire, half werewolf, asked his son.
Vail, full-blooded vampire, nodded across the street.
Stryke followed the vampire’s nod and spied a lanky man wearing a blue hoodie, tattered jeans and combat boots who strode down the sidewalk. The stranger glanced toward them. Red eyes glowed.
“Demon,” Vail confirmed. “He’s cool, though. Doesn’t appear as though he means any trouble. Does he, sweetie?” He kissed his daughter’s curly blond hair.
“Demons are not my favorite breed,” Rhys muttered. “But he looks harmless. She still allergic?” he asked Vail.
Vail, with coal-black hair and silver rings on his fingers that glinted even with the lacking sunlight, nodded. He explained to Stryke. “Ever since Summer had a little run-in with Himself last year she’s been allergic to sulfur. Good demon alarm, though.”
“How does a baby have a run-in with Himself?” Stryke had been in Paris all of two days and was staying in an apartment owned by his grandfather—the rest of his family was, as well—and what he’d learned since arriving was that paranormal breeds of all varieties were in abundance here as compared to Minnesota, which he called home.
“Himself kidnapped her,” Vail provided. “Long story. She’s good. Wasn’t hurt. But you know. Allergic now. I have to head out. Lyric is probably already at the tailor’s waiting for me. I have to try on the tuxedo again. I hope the tailor got the studs right this time.”
Stryke smirked. Vail wore black velvet jeans and a crisp black shirt with black lace around the wrists. And there was enough silver and diamonds on his wrists, ears and rings to flash signals to the moon. The vamp defined glamour rock, but with a bite.
“I sent a suit to your apartment, Stryke,” Vail said. “Your mother reported to my wife that her sons hadn’t properly packed. Ha! Anyway, not sure if they’ll fit you with a tux for the wedding. But in case not, I thought you could borrow one of mine. I sent one to your brother Trouble’s apartment too, but that guy is a block. Not sure my stuff will fit him.”
Indeed, Stryke hadn’t packed anything fancy for the family wedding. When he’d learned it was black-tie, he’d shaken his head and tried not to moan too loudly. Suits were not his style. But it was generous of the vamp to send him a loaner. Stryke’s shoulders were broader than the vampire’s and his biceps were definitely bigger, but he figured he could make it work. Unless it was velvet. It was probably too late to specify a more subtle fabric choice, so he’d keep that worry to himself.
“Thanks, man.” Stryke met Vail’s fist bump and then tweaked Summer’s button nose. “See you at the wedding, Summer.”
The shy toddler tucked her face against her dad’s neck yet, with a giggle, peeked back at Stryke.
“Hug?” Stryke held out his arms.
Surprisingly, she stretched out her arms and he took her into a bear hug. A hug from a kid defied explanation. Stryke wanted a pack of his own. Soon. The urge to raise a couple of sons, and heck, why not a few daughters too, was strong. Hugs seemed a very necessary purpose to life.
“She likes you.” Vail retrieved his daughter.
Summer said, “Puppy?”
“Ha! She’s already got a nose for the wolves,” Vail said.
Stryke playfully barked at her, and Summer giggled. “See you at the wedding!”
The vampire strode off toward the red Maserati convertible parked down the street. Stryke and Rhys waved to Summer in the front car seat as the twosome rolled by.
“That’s the third Maserati in so many years,” Rhys commented on the sleek vehicle that sported a noticeable dent on the passenger door. “That boy needs to take a driver’s course.”
“Wow.” Stryke shoved his hands in his front jeans pockets. He couldn’t imagine having the kind of disposable income to afford a six-figure car—three times over. While set for life, thanks to investments, he lived a middle-class existence in a small town. He gladly claimed the title of redneck. Happiness to him was living simply.
Though he wouldn’t mind hooking up with a pretty Parisian werewolf while here. The available females back home were slim-pickings, and his werewolf had never had the pleasure of dating another of his breed. It was what he most desired. That, and starting a family that he could call a pack.
Finding a woman had actually become necessity since Stryke’s father had given him the task of starting a new pack. Malakai Saint-Pierre was ready to retire and travel the world with his wife, Rissa. The Saint-Pierre pack consisted of only family. They needed a strong new pack in the area. A diverse pack made up of many families. It was how the werewolves in Minnesota would finally grow their numbers.
The Saint-Pierre pack’s scion was currently Trouble, Stryke’s eldest brother. Trouble hadn’t the calm control to step into his father’s position as principal and lead others. Malakai had said as much to Stryke. His oldest brother was a loose cannon, who picked fights at the drop of a shifty glance and reveled in partying all night. Slightly ADD? Always possible with Trouble.
Stryke was eager to head a pack and had the confidence to do so. But to grow a pack a man needed a good woman at his side.
“So you said you were going to stay on a bit after your family heads home?”
“A few days, for sure.” Stryke returned his attention to Rhys, who owned Hawkes Associates, a sort of bank/savings/storage conglomerate that catered to all paranormal species. “My parents and brothers and sister are here for five days. But Grandpa Creed said we could stay in the apartments as long as we like, so I’m going to fit in some touring when the wedding is over.”
“When you’re not wandering and checking out the sights I’d love it if you’d consider helping me out. I’m shorthanded and have a lot of work in the office. My assistant is out of town on his honeymoon. I’ve a pickup with the Order of the Stake. It would be simple. You’d meet Tor and he’ll hand over the artifacts.”
“Is the Order of the Stake what I think it is?”
“Yes, they are an ancient order of mortal knights who hunt vampires. But they’re cool. Vail informs for them on occasion. Torsten Rindle does their spin. He also handles exchanges with Hawkes Associates. Sometimes the knights in the Order come upon treasure or, let’s just say…their victims’ belongings have to be cataloged. They’ve recently acquired a demon artifact that I bought for my own collection. It wouldn’t take long. But I don’t have the time to run over there myself with all this wedding stuff.”
“I can do that. Doesn’t sound too difficult. Tomorrow?”
“Yes. I’ll text you the information and provide Tor with your name. Thanks, Stryke. I appreciate it. Oh, and now that I think of it… Here.” Rhys tugged out two tickets from his jacket pocket. “You have any interest in gallery showings?”
Stryke shrugged. “I do hope to catch some of the museums and culture while I’m in town. Always willing to put new ideas in my brain and learn what I can about art and history.”
“I think this is a seventeenth-century jewelry collection on display. I got the tickets weeks ago, but won’t be able to make it tonight. As grandparents of the groom, my wife and I have to attend a rehearsal dinner tonight. Tedious.”
Stryke accepted the tickets. He wasn’t much for jewels, but he’d made the decision to take in as much of the city as he could while here. This was the first time he’d been overseas. He wasn’t sure he could survive being cooped up in an airplane for nine hours to ever make the return visit, so while on land he would do the town up right.
“Maybe one of my brothers will go along with me. Do I have to dress up?”
“You’ll probably want to wear the suit Vail sent to your place. Thanks, Stryke. I’ll call you in the morning with details on the job.”
Rhys clapped a hand across Stryke’s shoulder then wandered back inside the six-story black granite building where he did business.
Stryke tucked the tickets in his back pocket and shook his head as a bright pink Vespa scooted by. A gorgeous woman wearing a skirt commandeered the scooter. She even wore high heels. The women here were so different from back in the States. They liked to look good, no matter what the activity.
He didn’t understand a single word of the language, so he had gotten more sneers and snide side glances than he’d experienced in a lifetime. He was taking it in stride. He wasn’t the sort to anger easily. That was his brother Trouble’s forte. Maybe by the time he boarded the plane for the return trip home he’d actually know a bit of the language and have found that fantasy werewolf he dreamed about meeting?
Then again, he’d be thankful to not starve—because he couldn’t ask for what he wanted in French—not get arrested, and not make a fool of himself if a pretty woman did glance his way.
And if he was lucky he might happen upon some danger. Because before he started the dream family and pack, he needed to satisfy a soul-deep craving for adventure. His brothers always seemed to find danger and excitement in spades.
Stryke had survived a near-death experience last winter. Time to live his life and make the most of it.
Private gallery, 10:00p.m.
Two hundred people wandered about the airy gallery off the Rue de Rivoli. Excellent turnout. The champagne flowed, and the silver-dusted vanilla macarons catered from Pierre Hermes were nibbled even by those women who would never deem to smudge their lipstick. It wasn’t the calories, chéri; it was the humility of being seen chewing in public.
Blyss Sauveterre had owned the gallery for two years and it wasn’t so much a labor of love as her means to keep tabs on society. By featuring a new exhibit every month she ensured the flow of the rich and famous in and out of the gallery doors never ceased. The diamonds on display this evening were once Marie Antoinette’s prized possessions. Gifts from her lover, Count Axel von Fersen.
Blyss wasn’t sure she believed the provenance. Axel Fersen had been a rake, a solider, an opportunist. Had he really garnered enough wages to afford such elaborate diamonds for the queen? History painted him more a lover than a businessman, which she was inclined to agree with. Whether or not he’d had an affair with the doomed queen? She certainly hoped that part was true.
The fantasy of it all intrigued her, and no one this evening had questioned the story behind the beautiful gemstones glinting within their rococo silver-and-gold settings.
The exhibit tonight was a preshow to the grand event Blyss and her assistant planned to feature perhaps next month—the unveiling of Le Diabolique to the public.
Le Diabolique was a fifty-carat black diamond that glinted red from within. History told that it had been given by a seventeenth-century Belgian duke to the French Queen Anne. It had been stolen less than a week after she’d taken it in hand. The diamond had been recovered and stolen throughout history many times over, and rumor told that anyone who possessed it faced great torment, wickedness and terrible evil. If not the ultimate misfortune of death.
Blyss believed the rumors. The diamond would prove her greatest torment should she not pull off the heist properly this evening. Part one had already been accomplished. Now the handoff.
Her assistant, Lorcan Price, was bedecked in a pink bespoke suit and bright purple bow tie. He adjusted his thick black-rimmed glasses and crossed the room, weaving between patrons and wielding champagne flutes in each hand. He gained her side and pressed a cool champagne glass into her hand.
The man seemed to possess a sixth sense about how to please her. Bon mots uttered at the precise moment she was beginning to doubt herself, a compliment about her designer shoes, even a conspiratorially catty wink from across the room during such events as tonight.
Blyss tilted back a few sips of bubbly, eyeing the crowd over the crystal rim as she did so. Most men had a woman draped on their arm this evening and looked oh-so-bored. If they were wise, they’d pay attention to those things that attracted their partners’ eyes, such as all things sparkly. Blyss’s usual type, an older man who wore an expensive suit, tended his nails and hair, and who reeked money, were spread throughout the gallery. Some had even come alone. Such fortune.
But tonight she required someone different.
“The show is going well,” Lorcan said in his quiet yet enthusiastic voice. “The duchess Konstantinov has suggested to me she may loan the gallery her grandmother’s sapphire collection. She’s from old Russian money. Wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve a Faberge egg stashed away, as well. Isn’t that spectacular?”
“Exquisite,” Blyss agreed. Yet the intrigue of whether or not the duchess did own a Faberge egg didn’t pique her curiosity. Her heart wasn’t in the moment. Too much to think about. The plan must go off or she faced a horrible future.
“Is all well with the, erm…big surprise?” he whispered conspiratorially.
“Oui, bien sur.” At least, not if anyone cared to study Le Diabolique too closely. “Soon, Lorcan. But I don’t know about announcing it tonight.”
“I will leave it to you, then. You do have the only key to the storage room.”
Always trying to gain that access, Blyss thought. Maybe someday she would trust him to tend the acquisitions. But not yet.
“Keep working the room, Lorcan. And do be sure to introduce yourself to Madame Horchard. She’s filthy.” As in rich. A shorthand the two of them shared. Because if there was one thing that had drawn Blyss to Lorcan, it was his desire to climb the social ladder by means of attaching himself to money. “I must make another round through the gallery.”
They bussed each other’s cheeks. Lorcan knew well that Blyss abhorred getting her lipstick or her hair mussed.
Clutching the goblet, she strode slowly through the crowd, nodding in acknowledgment to those she knew. Normally she noted the flash of bling on ears, at necks, and wrists and fingers. So she had managed ten carats from her lover? Lucky girl. But tonight her mind was a scatter. Nerves made her tense.
Her heartbeats thundered. She inhaled and then exhaled deeply, vying for calm. She hated this feeling of desperation that had settled into her being the past few days. She’d thought to have perfected her life and that smooth sailing was all her future held.
Until her father, Colin Sauveterre, had shown up at her door a month ago, slobbering drunk and crying. His gambling debts had caught up to him. He’d needed her help. But by helping him, she had placed herself on a precipice that loomed over a dangerous fall.
Would she ever again feel safe and sure? As if her life was exactly as she had designed it? All she desired was to drop her shoulders and relax, knowing all was well. And that she fit in.
Exhaling heavily, she drew in a breath of courage. She could do this. She had to do this.
* * *
To read on, order your copy of Moonlight and Diamonds today!