Vampire Thorsten Irizarry ignored the countless warnings from his cousin Jax to stop dating women who weren’t destined to be his mate. Why should he do it? He was only having a little harmless fun until Raya August came to her senses. She wouldn’t care about his past relationships. He knew his charming ways would win her over without any problems.
However, he was wrong. Nothing he did captured her heart. He was at a lost how to change her first impression of him.
Raya August wasn’t interested in having Thorsten as her mate. In her mind, he was a playboy looking for another challenge to conquer but he wouldn’t find it with her. She wasn’t into playing games and she wasn’t about to start now with him.
If he wanted her heart, he would have to earn it.
A Phaze Books ReleaseContains sexual language and explicit sexual situations intended for the enjoyment of adult readers.
The Queen of Tease: If you want to read interracial romance stories that leaves you panting for more and turning the pages faster than you can read them. Marie is for you.
After reading her first “dirty” book as a teenager, Marie knew she had to become a writer. She started writing a few years ago because she wanted to reach for her dream. She writes her characters so her fans will believe in the Happily Ever After. She loves collecting bear figurines and reading a HOT book when she gets the chance.
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All Romance ebooks Best of 2008 Awards
All Romance ebooks Best of 2009 Awards
Raya, you are mine. Stop trying to deny me. I know you feel the pull between us. You can’t be with any other man but me. Understand me when I tell you this: you are mine for all eternity. I won’t let you go. Come to me. Do it now! I demand it of you.
Screaming loudly in her dark bedroom, Raya August jerked awake at the sound of the strange, hypnotic voice inside her head. Sweat poured down over her skin, plastering her white nightgown against her body as her widened eyes scanned the room. Raya closed her eyes and took several deep breaths as she tried to calm her racing heart. Once she started feeling more relaxed, she flung the twisted covers off her body. She swung her feet over the edge of the bed and brushed her hair away from her forehead while trying to figure out what was going on.
Who did the voice belong to? Why did he keep declaring I’m his? Am I losing my mind?
Ever since she was attacked at Sahara’s house by Mr. Edwards, she hadn’t been sleeping well. She felt like someone was watching her every single move, but anytime she turned around no one was behind her. The hair on the back of her neck seemed to stand up. She usually didn’t let things scare her, but these eerie occurrences were beginning to make her a little jumpy.
For weeks after the assault, Sahara apologized for getting Raya pulled into in the middle of her stalker’s demented illusions. Raya didn’t blame her best friend for anything that happened to her. Mr. Edwards acted by himself and he was sorely to blame for holding her as a hostage. Sahara had nothing to do with it.
Truthfully, she was more frightened about the odd yet familiar voice she kept hearing every night. The doctors told her that she shouldn’t have any side effects from the blow to her head, but something was going on with her. If the man’s voice didn’t stop soon, she was going to make another appointment to see if the doctors could run some more tests.
Most of her recurring nightmares from that horrifying day were fading away, but sometimes after a stressful day at work Mr. Edwards’s face would pop into her head and they would start all over again.
Why does this have to happen to me right now with every other crazy thing going on in my life?
Work kept her busy with trying to find out more about the mystery procurer who still harassed her daily with ridiculous highball offers for the hedge fund. This despite the fact her older brother, Cedric, wasn’t involved with the everyday ins and outs of the family business anymore.
He knew who the person was, but he wasn’t giving up any information. They were both too old to have this stupid sibling rivalry. Cedric took a lot of pleasure out of making her work for it. Wasn’t it enough that he was still their father’s favorite child because he was the oldest, and a son? Nevertheless, she wasn’t going to stop pressuring him until he gave her what she needed to fix this situation.
Hoping a long, hot shower would clear the problems from her head and allow her to sleep, Raya got up off the bed and made her way towards the bathroom. If the shower didn’t work, she would read for a little while and maybe the sleep she wanted would finally come to her.
Raya completely missed him as he disappeared from her room. Hiding now in the darkness of Raya’s patio, Thorsten Irizarry watched as his mate got out of her bed then disappeared into the bathroom. He felt the fear coursing through her and hated that she was so scared of his voice coming to her during the night. But he had to begin their bonding, and communicating with her while she slept was the best way for him to get it done.
Months ago at Alpha Male Incorporated, when he realized she was chosen as his Unique woman, he hadn’t been overly concerned about claiming her. He knew he had all the time in the world to take Raya. Until the shocking moment he saw her body lying lifelessly on Sahara’s living room floor, he had neverfelt such overwhelming pain in his life. At that very second, all he wanted to do was wrap Raya up in his arms and vanish out of the room with her to somewhere safe.
Yet, he couldn’t do it because she hadn’t accepted him as her mate. He couldn’t declare Raya as his before she chose to love him and no other man for all eternity.
He wasn’t going to waste his time jumping through unnecessary hoops like Jax and Zander had done to win the hearts of their mates. Since he was younger, smarter, and better looking, things with Raya were going to move a lot faster. She wouldn’t be able to resist him once he poured on the Irizarry charm. No other woman could tell him no, so why would she be any different?
She was a Unique woman, which meant technically she was already his and no other man could take her away from him. Still, the quicker he got the ritual over with, it would allow him to move on to something else like pushing her to see what a good decision she’d make by combining her hedge fund with his other businesses at Alpha Male Incorporated.
Truthfully, finding his mate hadn’t been as difficult as Jax warned him it might be. It hadn’t taken hundreds of years of waiting and worrying about “the sleep of the dead” taking over his body. Raya was only about twenty feet from him, in her bathroom taking a shower. He wasn’t about to let her get away. Not when he had so many good things planned for them.
She was one damn lucky woman to have been chosen as his mate forever. All he needed to do was make Raya fall in love with him, which wouldn’t be that hard since he usually had women fighting over him anyway. Thorsten gazed once more inside Raya’s dark bedroom before he vanished from her patio back to his house across town.
“Raya, my God, you look horrible,” Sahara said, looking at her from across the table. ”Are you okay? I have warned you about working so much. You’re spending way too many hours behind that desk trying to save your family’s hedge fund. Let your brother have it back again and he can sell it.”
Sighing, Raya looked out the window at the passing traffic. Of course, she probably looked like death warmed over. For the past nine months she had so much on her plate that getting a good night’s sleep was totally out of her realm. She was so worn out that she fell asleep at her desk yesterday at work. If a car hadn’t backfired outside her window she might have slept the day away.
“I’m not tired from working too much. I just haven’t been getting enough sleep at night because of these weird dreams,” she answered. “I dreamt there was someone in my bedroom talking to me in my sleep. I know I heard a man’s voice talking to me, but it has to be a dream because when I wake up the room is always empty.”
Sitting up straighter in the restaurant booth, Sahara gave her an odd look. “You heard voices in your bedroom?” she asked, watching her closely. “Are you sure about this?”
“I’m positive, but it wasn’t voices. I only heard one male voice and he kept telling me to come to him. How I belonged only to him. I swear it was so strange. I’m beginning to think your family is rubbing off on me. I mean, whose best friend gets turned into a vampire?” she whispered. “I’ve accepted it, but I still find it so hard to believe that you’re never going to age or die.”
“I know, but after being with Jax for so long I couldn’t imagine not having him in my life forever.” Sahara sighed, a dreamy look coming into her dark brown eyes.
“I never thought I would be so happy in my entire life. My career is red hot right now, so much that I got invited to perform at The Billboard Music Awards three weeks from today. I can’t wait to be back in front of a large crowd again. I missed out on it so much because of what Tyler’s father was doing to me. I hope Mr. Edwards stays locked away for a very long time.”
“I don’t think the surprise visit you paid him a few days ago will help him get released anytime soon,” Raya laughed. “I still can’t believe you appeared in his room and scared the shit out of him.”
Sahara stared back at her with a dark and unfathomable expression that scared her, and for once she saw more vampire than human in her best friend.
“He threatened me for months. I’d have killed him that day at my house. Not only for what he had done to me, but you as well. I hate him!” Sahara hissed in a low voice. “He deserves so much more than one midnight visit from me, but I can’t go any further because I promised Jax I would be good. He wasn’t too happy when he finally found out where I’d gone after he went to sleep. I have never seen him that upset with me before, but I had to do it.”
Reaching across the table, she squeezed her friend’s hand. “Sahara, stop and calm down before you show something you shouldn’t. You can’t draw any more attention to yourself.”
She felt Sahara grasp her a little tighter until all of the tension left her best friend’s body, and the crazed look disappeared from her eyes. She kept holding Sahara’s hand until she was positive it was okay to let go.
Something is wrong. She had never seen her best friend get this irate before.
Easing her hand away, Raya slid back in her seat and relaxed. She would get to the bottom of what was going on before their lunch was over. “What’s going on with you today? Please don’t tell me nothing because I can tell there is.”
“No, there is something off about you. Are you really doing okay? Is everything truly as good between you and Jax as you’re telling me? If there is anything bothering you, let me know. We’re still best friends although we don’t hang out like we used to before you got married.”
Sahara glanced away from her and shrugged her shoulders. It was a move she used to do when they were younger. Sahara usually did it when she was torn between telling her the entire truth or just part of it.
“I don’t know what is up with me lately. Jax thinks it might be my body changing because of my growing powers, but it feels like something else,” her best friend admitted, looking back at her.
“Do you regret allowing Jax to turn you?” Raya asked, secretly wondering if Sahara wanted her old life back now. “I mean, I understand about you being a Unique woman and everything, but you could have told him no.”
“Of course not,” Sahara instantly answered. “Just thinking about how Jax could have died because of me still tears me up a little, but he didn’t. I love him with every single ounce of my body. He’s everything to me. I don’t see how any other man could have given me what Jax does. He’s truly the man I waited for my entire life. You will feel the same way when your mate comes along.”
“My…what?” Raya sputtered, shocked by Sahara’s choice of words. “My vampire mate, I don’t think so. I have a hard enough time dealing with human men. I don’t need or want a century-year-old, non-human male telling me I was born to be his because of a birthmark.”
“I never thought I would be with Jax, but look at me now. I swear it isn’t as bad as you think. Jax is almost exactly the same as a human male, only certain things make him different. You never know who is out there waiting to win over your heart, Raya,” her best friend pointed out. “He might capture your heart like Jax did with me.”
How in the hell did the conversation get turned from her worrying about Sahara to her having a vampire of her very own? God, this was just too much for her to handle right now.
“Nope, not for me,” she said, shaking her head. “I can’t see myself living forever. I’m going to grow older and die like humans are supposed to do.”
Sighing, Sahara brushed her hair off her neck, making Raya notice how fast her best friend’s hair had grown since becoming a vampire. Her hair wasn’t the only thing that had drastically changed. Even her singing voice had more of a sultry quality to it when she performed.
“I remember hearing Sabrina saying almost exactly the same words, and now she’s married and head over heels in love with Zander with a baby on the way.”
“You and Sabrina are both very lucky to have men who adore you. I think it’s amazing. I don’t want you to ever worry if I have any kind of issues with Jax or Zander, because I don’t. However, all I want to do is fix my family’s business, which my brother almost ruined by stealing money from it to pay off his gambling debts.
“If he hadn’t been family I’d have tossed his ass into jail, but I still need him to tell me who the buyer was for my company. I’ve looked everywhere for the paperwork, but I can’t find any trail leading back to this fake corporation.”
Some days, Raya wondered if their family name was always going to be the punch line in a joke around town, or if she could bring it back to the top. Cedric wasn’t helping her move in the right direction by constantly jumping around from job to job after she let him off the hook for the money. She dug into her bank account and paid the money back to the company.
She loved her brother. He had been an excellent older brother until he got involved with the wrong woman. She got him hooked on gambling months after getting involved with him, and things went downhill fast for him soon afterwards.
After going to rehab and getting help for his gambling issues, Cedric got released and hadn’t been back to the poker table. However, after working at several different low-paying jobs, he finally paid her all of her money back. She had secretly hoped he would go back to college and finish getting his degree, but he hadn’t done it.
Now, he was involved in another idea that he probably wouldn’t stick with for longer than three weeks. Raya wondered if her brother was ever going to grow up. Would there ever be a time that he started acting like the oldest instead of her?
“How is Cedric doing?” Sahara asked, surprising her. “I wanted to go with you to the rehab clinic to see him, but Jax almost put me on permanent lockdown when he found out about my plans. He didn’t want his mate going there. Honestly, he didn’t like the idea of you going to see your brother, either. That’s why at the last minute he suggested Thorsten to go with you.”
Rolling her eyes, Raya tried not to say anything bad about Sahara’s extended family, but the cocky Thorsten Irizarry wasn’t a man with whom she wanted to spend any of her time. He was, without a doubt, the most egotistical man she ever had the bad luck of coming across.
She didn’t need him to accompany her to Cedric’s rehab clinic. She wasn’t going to get hurt by walking through the front door. It wasn’t a place filled with criminals, but a place for people who had uncontrollable addictions like her brother.
Besides, Cedric did his weeks and got released with glowing praise from the counselors. Now all he had to do was stay away from the woman who had hooked him on making bets and he should do fine.
She wasn’t sure if he had enough willpower to keep Gabby out of his life. She had a way of wrapping her brother around her little finger since the day they met. She would never understand how someone as smart as her brother fell for such a liar like the exotic dancer. It took a while before Raya realized she couldn’t waste her time worrying about her big brother. She had her own problems to deal with, and Sahara had just mentioned one of them.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but what is Thorsten’s deal? Every time I turn around he is there in my face, watching me. It’s weird. Like the time I woke up in the hospital and I found him just sitting there. He had this odd look in his eyes. His expression scared the shit out of me. I almost yelled for help until I remembered he was Jax’s cousin.”
“Please let me apologize again for Thorsten’s behavior. I would have been there for you, but Jax and I had to answer questions about Mr. Edwards. Knowing we couldn’t go, Thorsten volunteered to stay with you until we could get there. Did he say something to you?” she asked. “Is that why you’re nervous about him?”
Raya shook her head. “No, not that I remember, but I had the hardest time staying awake. I just couldn’t seem to keep my eyes open. It was like I had been drugged or something.”
Sahara reached for her glass of water and took a sip, then placed it back down. “I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe the hospital was giving you some medications through your IV or something.”
“You’re probably right,” she agreed. “Have you picked out your last backup dancer for your upcoming tour? Are you still planning to visit fifteen cities?”
Sahara shook her head. “No, I knocked them down to only ten. My husband wasn’t happy he couldn’t attend the last five towns because of some new projects involving Alpha Male Incorporated. However, I did finally pick out my last backup dancer and Mariah is amazing. She’s going to fit in perfectly with the rest of the girls.”
Sahara changed her concerts dates because of a conflict with Jax’s work schedule?
Raya couldn’t believe Sahara gave in so easily. She loved performing as Coco. Her girlfriend would never cancel because of a conflict with Jax’s work schedule. She always tried to give her loyal fans what they wanted if it was possible. Something wasn’t right, but she wouldn’t force the issue. Sahara would tell her when she was good and ready.
“Is the last concert still going to be here in Los Angeles? Without a doubt, you will be performing to a sold out crowd and I plan on having a seat in the front row.”
Sahara grinned at her. “Yes, it is. I had to fight Jax on that one, but he finally gave in. He’s still so protective. For some reason, he still believes I need him to be my bodyguard. He thinks he’s giving me the freedom I want, but it isn’t true. I thought dating a human man was nerve wracking but I recognized rather fast being married to a vampire is on a totally different level.”
“I think it’s kind of cute how he still checks out the places before he allows you to go inside. His concern shows how much he adores you and maybe it’s because of the Unique woman curse that Jax still wants to have you by his side at all times,” Raya suggested.
Her best friend stared at her with slight confusion. “I need to clear up some things with you. First, I don’t consider being Jax’s mate any kind of curse at all. Also, I might complain about his ways, but I love how my husband wants to watch over me all of the time. I’ve never felt so cared for by anyone. Sometimes I get chills thinking about how we share this everlasting love. I know when you find ‘the one’ you won’t let him go, either.”
Raya loved her friend like a sister, but finding never ending love wasn’t even a thought in her mind. She was fine with the way her life was going for the moment. She wasn’t about to change anything to please her or anyone else.
“Sahara, the only love I have in my life is my job. I can’t see anything past my goals right now and I shouldn’t. You know how it is when you love something. You want to be wrapped up in it as much as you can.”
“Girl, you sound so much like me before Jax. I thought all I wanted was my music and nothing else, but I didn’t know how wrong I was until he kissed me.”
She thought about pointing out they were two different people, but she didn’t want to get into an argument with Sahara. She wasn’t able to get out to lunch with her friend much anymore. So, the time they did spend together was very precious to her. She had to make the best of it.
“How are Zander and Sabrina doing?” she asked. She hadn’t seen either one of them since their wedding.
Sahara’s face lit up with pleasure. “Sabrina is doing great. She’s about ready to have the baby any day. I swear Zander is never away from her side most days unless she orders him out of the room. They are so cute.”
“How many months is she?”
“Can you believe she’s almost nine?” Sahara answered. “It seems like yesterday she and Zander got married and now they are about to become parents.”
Raya was excited for Sabrina and her upcoming bundle of joy. They had become closer since she was asked to be a bridesmaid in the wedding. Sabrina had a quiet sweetness about her that she found very relaxing. It was like every time you looked into her light brown eyes all of your problems melted away.
“Does Sabrina being pregnant make your biological clock tick even louder?”
“I can’t lie and say that it doesn’t,” Sahara admitted. “I would love to have a tiny version of Jax running around the house, but he’s worried I’d give up my career entirely to be a parent. He thinks I would do that for him and he doesn’t want me to choose between the two.”
“Tell him that you are more than—” Raya stopped talking when her phone started vibrating on the table. “Let me get this.” Picking it up, she read the text and tossed it back down on the table, cursing under her breath. She couldn’t even get an hour for lunch without him bothering her.
“Hell, I hate that asshole. I swear when I lay eyes on him I’m going to slap the taste out of his mouth,” she snapped. “How can anyone like him be a success in business with an attitude like his?”
“Raya, what’s wrong?” Sahara asked with a worried expression etched across her face.
“The jerk my brother almost let take over our hedge fund won’t stop harassing me. He keeps emailing me, texting me from this shell of a company. I hired the best computer techs I could find to locate this guy, but his firewalls are too damn good.
“I can’t get everything back in order at work with him buzzing around like a bothersome mosquito. I need to swat him away for once and all. This man is making it hard for me to do anything but take what he is dishing out.”
“I hate to see you on edge like this.” Sahara sighed. “How about you come over for dinner tonight? My Uncle Frank is back in town for a few days. I know he would love to see you.”
The dinner invitation was nice. She would love to see Frank, but she didn’t have the free time. “I wish I could, but I can’t. I have to find out who is checking into our financial statements and put an end to it as soon as possible.” Her days at the office seemed to be grow longer and longer until she actually thought about staying there at night sometimes.
“Raya, I know a way to deal with one of your problems,” Sahara told her. “I think Zander might be able to help you find out more about this guy. You know he owns a security business. A few guys who work for him have an extensive knowledge in computers. I bet one of them could trace the texts for you.”
Happiness raced through Raya’s body at Sahara’s wonderful suggestion. Why hadn’t she thought about it before? Zander really might be able to give her the help she required, which would take a lot of stress off her shoulders.
“Sahara, I can’t believe I didn’t think about this before you,” she said. “I’ll be at the office all this week until at least six o’clock. Zander can send someone by because I’ll take all the help I can get. Let me know how much it will cost.”
Sahara waved a hand in her direction. “Don’t worry about money. I know Zander will be glad to help you since he considers you part of the family already. He wouldn’t charge you anything to do this.”
“I hope you’re right about this, and I can finally find out who this guy is. I would love to stay longer, but I really need to hit the road.”
Grabbing her purse off the back of her chair, Raya dug inside to pay for her half of their meal. A few times Sahara had tried paying, but she wouldn’t allow it. She never took handouts before Sahara’s fame and wouldn’t start doing it now.
“Well, I think one big thing keeps that from being entirely true,” she said, placing the money down on the table. “I’m not a vampire and never will be one. I’ll call you later. I need to go somewhere before I head back to the office.”
Getting up from her chair, Raya slid her purse on her shoulder and waited while Sahara got up from her seat. She came around the table and gave her a hug. She returned it warmly, missing how much they used to laugh over their meals now everything was so serious.
“Don’t you dare make it another six weeks before we can have lunch again,” Sahara complained, taking a step back. “I hate the fact you are consumed by work now. I wish you would take a break and do something just for you. Can I talk you into taking a mini vacation for a while? I would love for you to go on tour with me. We could have a lot of fun together, just like the old days.”
God, Sahara’s suggestion sounds so good but I can’t do it.
“I can’t go on tour with you. I need to stay here for the business. Numbers have always been my passion I haven’t wanted to do anything else since I was a teenager. I would be heartbroken to lose something I wanted for so damn long.”
“Honey, will you please stop worrying so much? Everything is going to turn out fine for you. I’m willing to bet if you open your eyes you’ll find your perfect guy right in your face,” Sahara said.
Raya bit her lip, trying to keep her thoughts to herself. Since getting married, Sahara was still living in the honeymoon stage. She believed everyone wanted to wear a long white dress and take the walk down the aisle, but Raya wasn’t one of those forever females.
“How about I focus on one thing at a time?” she suggested. “After I take care of the business side of my life then I can look over the personal side of it.”
Sahara’s perfectly arched eyebrows slanted down into a frown. “Are you trying to brush me off?” she asked. “I can’t believe it. What happened to our sisterly connection? We both know I’m usually right about these things. Don’t give up on love.”
“No, of course not,” she instantly denied, not wanting to let Sahara figure out she had given up on love a long time ago. “I just don’t want to get your hopes up that my one true love is out there waiting for me.”
“You know that I’ve the ability to read your mind, so I can tell when you’re lying to me.” Linking her arm through hers, Sahara led her past the crowded tables as customers took her friend’s picture with their cell phones as they headed for the front door.
Sometimes, she secretly wondered did all of the attention make Sahara regret becoming a famous singer. Did she ever not want to be Coco the artist and just be Sahara Irizarry, the woman?