Watch Over You is a 22,500 word paranormal romance novella.
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[Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of an adult nature, as well as scenes that include what naturally follows when anyone is intimate with a vampire.]
(Sample from) Watch Over You
by Elle Q. Sabine
Copyright 2013 by Elle Q. Sabine (email@example.com).
All rights reserved, do not reprint in paper or electronic form without prior permission of the author. By reading further, you are stating you are 18 years of age, or over.
“You need someone to watch over you,” he observed sitting back and lifting his coffee to his lips.
The noise in the coffee shop faded. Her head spun. She couldn’t think, but focused only on him as around her the shop dimmed. His face, his expression, his demeanor, his settled position on one end of the upholstered love seat became her only world. For the last few weeks—she couldn’t say when he’d started appearing—this man had been present, his eyes on her as she rushed in and out, on her way to work or home. He wore expertly tailored charcoal suits over fitted, perfectly-pressed pastel shirts and ties, a little platinum pinkie ring on his right hand. He always read, his posture erect, as he sipped from his mug. Why could she describe him down to the last detail? Why did her subconscious recognize the streak of silver below his right ear or the angle of his Roman nose?
This time, again, his pale blue eyes were fixed on her, his lips compressed as he set his steaming coffee on the small table between them.
Willa said nothing but something showed in her face, or in her frozen posture. He recognized her response in the same way she knew the angle of his nose. He expected both the reactive flare and the vulnerable greed she hadn’t been prepared to conceal.
“You heard me,” he commented. “You need someone to watch over you—to care for you. And more importantly, you want someone to. You’re almost desperate for it.”
The blood rushed to Willa’s head. She shifted, wondering how he had divined what she naively had thought was a deep, dark secret. Slowly, so as not to spill, Willa sat her untouched mug beside his. Apparently she was easier to understand than she’d believed. Or maybe it was a lucky guess.
“What gives you that idea?” Willa asked after a long moment, trying to suppress any evidence of defensiveness in her voice. “I’ve certainly never said so, not to anyone. And I’ve always taken care of myself. Always.”
“Olim erat puellula. Someone must have cared for you,” he murmured, his brows rising as his eyes stroked down her arms, over her plump breasts and further to rest on the hem of her skirt, just above her knees. She felt oddly warmed by the examination but immediately remembered to cling to indignation. How could he make her feel as though he’d just run his rough palm over those curves, so intimately she shivered with delight?
“Have you never asked anyone for help, dear girl?”
An endearment and a verbal prod at a decade-long sore place in her soul, all in one sentence. There was no such thing as a perfect man, so perhaps this one was psychic—or an axe murderer. Considering the two options, Willa hoped for an axe murderer.
“So you’re volunteering to solve all my problems?” she returned. The words were harsher than she intended, practically announcing that he’d not heard even the beginning of her worries, fears and inner complaints. “That’s a bit much for a first coffee, isn’t it? Especially since you don’t even know my name. And you’re not my date.”
A tremor of shame washed over her at the unintended memory. Willa had lived over the bakery across the street for six months. The coffee shop had been a haven, for whatever moments she spent there each day. This morning, though, she’d paced up and down the sidewalk waiting for the virtually-organized man-date who’d never appeared. Now she realized her agitation must have been obvious to the shop’s regular patrons, including the gentleman beside her. She’d chosen the location because it represented safety. Both the shop’s barista and her landlord the baker would have noticed if she was dragged off by, or even if she walked off willingly with, a stranger.
“Hardly. I never date.” He said it dismissively, as though it was obvious. The announcement didn’t surprise Willa. It fit perfectly; she knew already he wouldn’t have the patience required to endure the tiresome game. “As to the rest,” he paused and looked at her intently, “I’ll call you Willa. You haven’t specified what your problems are yet but I can identify some of them simply by circumstance. You have a job that isn’t intended to be a living wage, though I’ve heard you say you’d enjoy it in different circumstances. You’d be happy working in a proper school but no one in this decaying city has hired art history teachers for three years, particularly ones not fluent in Spanish, Korean, or Chinese. You dislike your direct supervisor; you fear being dismissed or reprimanded far too much. You have little privacy even in your home, as you share a flat above that noisy bakery with three other girls, two of whom bring home endless strings of men who leave the next morning and the third who drinks far too much and mostly doesn’t come home until after the sun is up. You probably don’t even have a room to yourself. You aren’t close to anyone I could describe as family, because you’re always alone, even on such a fine Saturday.” His eyes held her steadily. “I don’t believe you even own a cell phone, let alone use one to stay in touch with friends and family. You have no one to watch over you. No one to look out for you. If you did, some of those problems would go away.”
Willa stared at him, forcing her mouth not to open like a fish. She stared at him until he murmured, very softly, “And yes, some of your problems I could make disappear all too easily.”
She shivered. He knew a great deal about her, almost too much for comfort. She’d never noticed, but he must have been watching her—paying attention to her—for quite awhile. Was he truly a stalker or merely an observant coffee-drinker?
It bothered her that she didn’t know nearly as much about him, though she’d seen his black head for at least a few minutes every day for many weeks now. “And you?” she asked, reminding herself she had nothing better to do on the sunny Saturday morning. If she left, she’d only go on a long, meandering walk alone in a city of millions until she was chilled and exhausted, or back to the cramped, inadequate apartment. Her roommate would be having sex in a bed less than six feet from hers, and she’d end cleaning the mess the others had left in the kitchen.
Talking to him, unsettling as it was, was infinitely preferable.
“My name is Nathaniel. Nathaniel Montague.” He lifted the mug and sipped while she struggled to keep her face impassive. “Not to be confused with Romeo Montague.”
“Of course not. No man in his right mind would want to be compared to Romeo. He ended up dead.”
“Only because Juliet was once a foolish child, and because that is how Shakespeare ended his play.” He looked at her intently and let his gaze drift downward, over her, again. “Either of our deaths would undoubtedly prevent me from solving any of your problems.” Willa shivered and retrieved her own hot chocolate form the table, warming her hands against the gleaming ceramic. She sipped delicately from it until he spoke again. “As for your other questions, I’m not insane or criminal. I live alone except for a general factotum; that is, Janus is my driver, housekeeper, valet, butler and cook in one body. I’m not married, not wanted for any crime, am gainfully employed and have no children. The ring is my mother’s wedding band. She gave it to me to remind me of a promise some years ago.” He ticked off the words mechanically, as though reading from a resume. He cleared his throat and went on after a brief shake of his head. “Come, let’s walk toward the Park. Get a to-go cup, it will help keep your hands warm until I can get you proper gloves.” He looked critically at her black Goodwill pea coat and added, “And a decent coat. The weather’s colder already.”
Surprised at her own acquiescence, Willa stood and took his hand. It’s just a walk, she reminded herself. Just a walk.
But even then, she knew it wasn’t true.
* * * *
Nathaniel could sense her dawning wonderment as those first hours passed. Once her cocoa cup was discarded, he led her purposefully into Barney’s New York. He had her fitted for gloves and a hat, and then directed her to try on several coats while he considered the cut and fit of each. Nathaniel didn’t need her to try on so many; he knew precisely which he’d choose, but he couldn’t resist the glazed look of hope and pleasure on her face as she donned and then discarded wools, faux furs and various leathers. As if to confirm her intuition, he drew her closer against his side as the saleswoman enthusiastically clipped tags from his purchases and promised to send Willa’s old coat to charity.
Nuzzling her hair, he murmured so softly she almost missed it, “Your life will be better, Willa. I promise you.”
They wandered further, their feet drifting into the Park and down nameless paths. Nathaniel looked up at the sun and soaked in its nutritious late-morning rays, trying to ignore the temptation beside him. The sun helped, its foreign brightness thrilling him in a way that made him different from most of his own people. He’d lived in America for nearly two centuries and he’d always taken heart from the rich sunlight, embracing it when others of his kind feared its bounteous rays, clinging to the shadows and the night instead.
Sometime after noon, he seated her beside him in a small café on Columbus Avenue. He made certain she ate well—what with missing any sort of breakfast and the hours of walking they’d done, she needed the sustenance. Nathaniel snacked on freshly baked bread and cheese, smiling widely as he fed her most of his freshly cut fruit. He doubted she realized how much of his meal she’d eaten and used all of his persuasive powers to distract her so that she would not. He knew that probing her mind too obviously would both terrify and turn her against him; he did not intend to permit either. Still, long years had taught him he could gently influence her. It was a skill he’d refined throughout his long career, though never had it been so important.
They talked about recent movies she’d seen, as Nathaniel shamelessly delved into the memories of the other patrons to lend authenticity to his opinions. He teased her about sporting events only to discover she loved college football and avidly followed the teams in the Big Ten conference. He asked why she wasn’t at home on her sofa watching games but she only shrugged and said she’d catch the highlights later. Nathaniel asked about her favorite authors and books, and they engaged in a spirited debate over the merits of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert. Nathaniel confessed to a personal liking for Ray Bradbury, while Willa shyly confided that she privately loved the tales of Mark Twain, even if they were out of date and somewhat unfashionable. Nathaniel refrained from telling her that he’d known and liked the man; such confidences would need to be saved for a more private time and place.
As they left the little establishment, the sun struck him. His heart reveled in its brilliance, as it soothed his hunger. Still, Nathaniel couldn’t wait more than a few more days. He’d have to feed properly soon—something he’d done only rarely since first seeing Willa. He wanted to share it only with her, and he’d held to that line, taking only the bare minimum he needed from evil-doers he found in the dark streets. There was no shame, no betrayal, in casting a glamour over the mind of drug dealer or a gangster; if he left such creatures too exhausted for anything more than twenty-four hours of sleep it was a day safer on the city streets.
Still, his old-fashioned hunts were unsatisfying. The blood of drug users was nauseating, and the blood of drunks was tainted by the alcohol. Every day tugged harder on his banked bloodlust and burgeoning heart-lust. The gnawing need inside him would never be gone now until Willa’s mind was bound to his. Even then, only Willa’s acceptance of their common destiny and her presence at his side would bring him peace. It wouldn’t, in theory, be difficult to find healthy female blood to satisfy his hunger, but Nathaniel couldn’t contemplate it, especially with the possibility of Willa’s blood, sweetened by arousal, before him. Though he couldn’t mark her yet, he made sure to rub his hands over hers and to press his cheek to hers, leaving a faint scent that any others of his ilk would recognize.
Nathaniel did not know how long he would be able to resist before he would take Willa, willing or not.
Heaven help him, he wanted her to be willing.
If he waited too long, though, Nathaniel’s unquenched need would awaken to a fully maddened form. He would seize Willa, would be unable to resist a feeding frenzy that would likely kill her. Such a possibility was beyond abhorrent. If, in his lust and hunger, he killed off the singular, dear girl who could sustain him for the remainder of his long, long life, Nathaniel knew he would go mad from hunger and grief, and ultimately, would take his own life. All Vampire were dependent on their mates for their sanity. He remembered another, a few hundred years before, who had managed to cut off his own head, and then mused about the possible methods to engineer a stake through one’s own heart.
He understood now why his kind were so violently possessive and rabid about the protection of their mates.
Nathaniel considered again the prospect of loving and feeding from her sooner, rather than waiting. If he simply led her to his apartment and Janus guarded the door—