She owned the stage, until a car crash stole her future.
Grace was a ballerina… not just any dancer, but the ballerina. Renown the world over, her extraordinary talent catapulted her to the highest levels of her art and she had the brightest of furtures ahead of her. Until a horrific car accident left her crippled. Barely able to walk, her heart breaks as she accepts she’ll never dance again.
A handsome stranger. An impossible cure that costs nothing… but her soul.
When enigmatic stranger Jaron Conrad tells her of a cure, Grace accuses him of being a crackpot and a quack. But could there be a possibility that he's telling the truth and, if he is, does Grace have the courage to take that chance, whatever the price?
She’s his second chance. Can he save her… or will he fail again?
Centuries old, vampire Jaron has always loved the ballet. Beauty in movement, it’s the only thing that stirs his long dead heart. Until he sees her. Grace Solomon… the living embodiment of everything he’s ever wanted. But her accident gives him the in her needs. His blood can cure her, allow her to dance again, but can he keep up the pretense?
A devil’s bargain…
She takes his blood, and shares his bed, but she doesn’t know what he is. And he daren’t tell her, fearing her reaction will be the same as his long dead wife. But a kidnapping forces him to make a decision… reveal the truth and save her life, or lose her forever…
**Please note: This title has previously been released under the title 'Grace' and contains only minor revisions**
Read an Excerpt
Copyright © 2013 Mina Carter
One flight of stairs. Just one measly flight of stairs, but for Grace Solomon it might as well have been a mountain. Sighing to herself, she headed over to the railing. Awkwardly, she transferred her walking sticks over to her right hand. She snorted. Walk…what a joke; shuffle might be nearer the mark.
She cast a quick glance around to make sure she was alone in the corridor. Nothing but the empty lobby met her eyes. Swan Lake had already started and all the patrons had already gone in to their seats. Good. Grace didn’t like pity, didn’t like people watching her as she made her clumsy way up the stairs. She knew Eric, the lobby host, would be watching in case she fell. But he wouldn’t venture out of hiding unless she needed him, which suited her just fine.
Grace started up the stairs, one slow, painful step at a time. She had a stair lift at home, but she’d be damned if she’d act the cripple in public. Her fiercely independent nature wouldn’t allow it. And that same tenacity had gotten her out of the hospital bed a year and a half ago when most people would have just given up. So she’d walk up these stairs if it killed her.
Clutching the handrail, she concentrated. Sweat broke out and trickled down her spine as she forced her damaged legs to obey her. Lift, slide and haul on the handrail until she was on the next step. Rinse and repeat. It took a while but it beat the alternative. There was no way she’d let anyone carry her; she did have some pride.
Pretty much all she had these days.
Another step and she paused, catching her breath, almost halfway to the top now. Her slender fingers curled around the handrail for balance. A little lie to conceal how much she needed the support. She had excellent balance, always had, which was one of the reasons she’d risen to ballerina. Prima ballerina in fact.
She’d wowed audiences with her ability, her grace and her poise. They’d flocked from the far corners of the world to attend her performances and she’d received invitations for private performances from the royal houses of Europe and beyond. Everyone had known the name Grace Solomon.
These days, because of another driver’s lapse in concentration, her best performance amounted to managing a small flight of stairs. That lapse in concentration had caused a three-car pile-up only Grace had survived. She was lucky to have walked away from it at all. Her lips curved slightly, but not in amusement. Technically, she hadn’t walked away from it. She’d been cut out and spent a month in intensive care. Then, when they couldn’t keep the news from her any longer, she’d been shunted to counselling. They thought the news she’d probably never walk again, let alone dance, would have a negative effect on her.
No shit, Sherlock.
Finally making the top step, Grace paused for a moment, the brief sense of triumph that ballooned in her chest quickly replaced by fatigue. She leaned on the handrail for a moment as she waited for her legs to stop trembling. Would it be too much to ask for these places to be built on one level?
Shuffling along, Grace made her way toward her seat. She rented a private box so she wouldn’t annoy other people when she came in late. She pushed open the door and made her way to her seat as silently as possible. Fayte was already there. Too embarrassed to let anyone, even her cousin, watch her climb the stairs, Grace always asked her to meet her at the theatre, rather than travelling together.
Fayte flicked a glance over her shoulder as Grace dropped gratefully into the seat next to her.
“Thought you’d never get here. Takes you longer and longer each week.”
“Shhh, it’s about to start,” Fayte said, as though talking to a sulky child rather than the fully grown woman who paid her wages.
Grace shook her head and lapsed into silence as the familiar music started. Arguing just wasn’t worth the effort sometimes. She sighed and sat back in her chair, her gaze fixed on the stage as the show started.
She watched the dancers, eagerly drinking in each and every step as she noted the body lines and graceful movements. Dancing was denied to her, a bitter twist of fate which had left a knot of pain in the middle of her chest, an empty hole to match the rest of her broken body. But her injuries didn’t mean she couldn’t watch and appreciate others dancing and try to soothe herself with the music and ambiance of her old life.
Maybe in a few years she might start teaching, she mused, allowing herself to be drawn into the music and the magic happening on stage. She became lost in the dance and all-too-soon the first act drew to a close. Grace sighed in disappointment and allowed her gaze to stray sideways.
Just checking how many people were in tonight, she tried to kid herself. Her gaze wandered over the packed seats, then up over the boxes above them. All the time she avoided the adjacent box and the tall, lean man who sat half-hidden in the darkness.
He was the other reason she came here. The other reason she put herself through the weekly trauma of the mountaineering exercise up the stairs.
Everyone on the ballet circuit knew Jaron. As a patron of the arts, he’d attracted the attention of every artistic organization within a hundred-mile radius. Groups he favoured didn’t hurt for money or resources and there wasn’t a ballerina out there who wouldn’t give a couple of body parts for him to notice her. Hell, there wasn’t awoman out there, ballerina or not, who didn’t sit up and take notice when Jaron walked into a room.
Tall and lean, he had the face of a dark angel. Even his voice was sexy. Low and silky, it had a woman wet with need before he even finished a sentence. The deep timbre promised hot nights between cool sheets, sending any female mind off on all sorts of erotic fantasies. And that was in polite conversation; heaven knew what kind of effect he could have whispering something more erotic in a woman’s ear. Probably complete ovarian meltdown.
A shiver ran down her spine; just the idea of Jaron Conrad whispering sweet nothings in her ear set a fluttering off in her stomach. She’d had fantasises about the guy for years, since the first time she’d seen him.
He turned and his pale eyes focused on her with single-minded intensity. Grace froze for a second, blindsided by the look in his eyes, a dark look that both thrilled and terrified her. She managed a smile in response and inclined her head a little before she turned away. A flush ran rampant over her cheeks.
Oh god, the way he looked at her…as though he could see right into her soul. She couldn’t help the small smirk that quirked her lips. On the whole, at least her soul was fairly safe. Her head, on the other hand, was filled with erotic daydreams.
Fantasies of what it would be like to have those perfect lips pressed against hers. Or his lean, hard body wrapped around hers, looming over her as she looked up at him. His knee sliding between hers, pressing open her thighs before he took her, his body thrusting into her as he held her wrists captive above her head.
Her cheeks grew hotter at the image she’d conjured up in her mind and she turned her head, hiding her blush in the darkness as she muttered a response to something Fayte said. She wasn’t listening to her cousin; all her attention was on the next box and its sexy-as-sin occupant.
Her mind started to wander back into her favorite fantasy. The two of them in a box, exploring each other everywhere with hands and lips before he pulled her onto his lap. His hands fanning over her hips as he slowly impaled her on his hard cock. A long tremble ran through her body as she imagined sliding down over his length, taking him inch by inch. Then she’d ride him, her hands resting on the front barrier of the box as the ballet continued, all those around them unaware of the erotic goings on above…
A twinge of pain in the back of her calf brought grim reality crashing back. The mind might have been willing but the body wasn’t. She sighed. She might have hoped to catch his attention when she was…well, normal. But what hope did she have now? A man like Jaron would never want a crippled woman.
She’d looked at him. More than that, she was thinking of him. Thinking of him and sex in the same sentence if he wasn’t much mistaken from the flush across her cheeks as she turned away.
In the next box, Jaron Conrad smiled to himself. He allowed himself the luxury of studying her, visually caressing her slender figure. A surge of possessiveness rose hot in his chest. She was his, whether she knew or not. She always had been.
He ignored the dancers as they emerged back onto the stage. He wasn’t here for them. Oh, he knew they were ecstatic he attended their performances. Later, at least three of the senior dancers would send invitations, asking him to their dressing rooms. In another time, another life, he might have accepted, but not tonight. The instant he’d seen Grace all that had changed. He was only here because of her.
She bent to listen to something her companion said. The move set her earrings dancing, the small crystals winking in the light thrown up from the stage, highlighting the slender curve of her neck.
Lust slammed into Jaron’s body, his fangs dropping ready into his mouth. A mouth that watered at the thought of sinking his fangs through her creamy skin at the same time he took her, fucking her as he drank from her.
Well done, Jaron, try getting rid of that sometime this century. Shifting in his seat he tried to ease the savage ache of his erection. He really, really did not need to think of her neck, or the tender swell of her breast, or the creamy skin of her thighs. Not if he wanted to survive tonight. Because, clichéd as it sounded, tonight was the night.
He’d spent months watching her from afar. Watching as she grew in confidence. Waiting for her to lift her gaze from the stage and remember the rest of the world was waiting for her. He’d seen it before in accident victims. Shock forced the mind to withdraw from the world until it could cope with what had happened. Until recently she hadn’t looked away from the stage, her beautiful green eyes locked on the dancers. The longing look on her face would have broken many a lesser man.
It had nearly broken Jaron, especially when he knew he could make it right. With one small bite he could erase all her problems, set the clock back and let her dance again. But he couldn’t, wouldn’t. She wasn’t ready. He corrected himself, hadn’t been ready.
She’d never looked up from the stage before, scanned the crowds. She wasn’t to know half of them came to see her. Isolated in her private box like a princess in the tower, a princess waiting for a noble prince to come and rescue her.
Jaron’s lips quirked. He’d been called many things, but noble wasn’t one of them. He’d rescue her, alright, but then he’d carry her off and lock her up in his bedchamber. A black prince claiming his bride. Yes, he liked that. Smiling, he levered himself out of the chair, his movements predatory before he checked himself. He’d always wanted Grace. Time to put his plan into action.
It didn’t take Jaron long to reach the door to the next box, but the short stretch of corridor was the longest walk he’d ever taken. He paused as he reached the door, one long-fingered, pale hand resting on the wood. Closing his eyes, he breathed in something that wasn’t exactly an odor. Her scent, her aura. His pale eyes snapped open, reading the nameplate on the door. Solomon.
Well, at least he wasn’t going to stumble into the wrong box and make an idiot of himself. Jaron shook himself, trying to calm the jittery feeling in his stomach. Nerves? Since when had he been nervous about anything?
He was a centuries-old vampire, a creature at the top of the food chain with no natural enemies. But regardless, his stomach felt like a pit of snakes had taken residence. Hyper-active snakes. He grimaced and pushed the door open.
It took less than a second for his vision to adjust to the darkness. He kept his head turned a fraction, so the lights from the stage didn’t hit him full in the face. A gesture most people would have taken to mean the lights had blinded him for a second. They’d have been wrong. Dead wrong.
Vampires were nocturnal predators. Like most creatures who hunted in the night, their eyes were reflective. His eyes lighting up like a freaking cat in front of a car on the highway would be a dead giveaway he wasn’t human. The last thing he wanted was Grace running screaming from him. Like Julia…
“Monster!” she yelled, fleeing from the room before he could say a word. Heart pounding, he raced after her but the front door slammed open before he was out of the room. “Julia!” But she didn’t stop, fleeing down the steps of the fashionable London townhouse she’d insisted they buy after their marriage not so long before.
He saw the carriage before she did and bellowed for her to stop, fear in his voice. Too late. Her yellow silk gown billowed in a cloud under the horses’ hooves, and a scream tore through the air. His or hers, he couldn’t tell. Scarlet spread over the silk, red on yellow. Cheery colors to herald death. Death was in the air, his preternatural senses informing him the instant her heart stopped beating…
Schooling his features, Jaron stuffed the unwanted memories back in the box from which they’d managed to escape. “Good evening, ladies. I hope you don’t mind the intrusion. May I come in?”
He stepped farther into the box as he spoke, sweeping a glance over the two of them and instantly dismissing Grace’s companion in favour of looking at her. He caught the movement out of the corner of his eyes as she stiffened slightly.
“Of course, Mr. Conrad, please do.” Grace’s voice was calm and collected as she motioned him to come in and join them. She indicated the empty chair to her left. Her companion, who occupied the chair to her right, shot Jaron a dark glance from under her lashes.
If looks could kill… He smiled his thanks as he sat down, lethal grace in every line of his body.
“Thank you. Did you enjoy the ballet this evening?”
“Boring. The lead dancer was flat-footed and the orchestra was off-key,” the other woman said, flicking her hair back over her shoulder and crossing her legs. A gesture designed to bring attention to their long, slim length. Jaron spared her a glance.
Taller than Grace, she had a slightly heavier build. Her face was familiar, her elfin features similar to Grace’s. A relative, of some sort. But instead of Grace’s vibrant coloring, deep red hair and emerald eyes, this woman was a faded, washed out version, and her strawberry blonde locks and brown eyes did nothing for Jaron.
“I thought it was a good performance.” Jaron looked back and forth between the two women as he tried to figure out the relationship. Sister, maybe? No, their scents weren’t close enough, even if you discounted the sickly perfume this one was wearing. Cousin, perhaps?
“Fayte, would you go and check whether the car has arrived for us yet, please?” Grace’s voice cut between them.
“Oh I’m sure it has; John’s usually early.” Fayte turned a bright smile on Jaron as she leaned forward, displaying her ample cleavage. Jaron ignored her. He knew her type—all false tits and equally plastic personality. Not something that appealed to him, except maybe as a way to slake the darker needs within him for ten minutes or so. He turned back to Grace.
Grace was a different matter. She’d captured his attention from the moment he’d first seen her a couple of years ago. This close to her, within touching distance of her delicate, fragrant skin, his cock ached and hardened in his pants until it almost burst through his bloody zipper.
Grace flushed scarlet, her voice sharp as she repeated her request. “Fayte, go and check if the car has arrived, please.”
Fayte huffed. Even softly spoken, Grace’s words were an order. One designed to set the other woman in her place and remind her who was boss. He’d teach Grace who was boss alright… In his bed. Bent over his bed. Tied to his bed. Jaron shook his head to dislodge the wayward thoughts. He needed to keep sex off his mind—not an easy task when her delicate perfume, warmed by the erotic fragrance of her skin, wrapped around him in a siren’s call.
Fayte stood, flicking her hair over her shoulder as she flounced out. “Bloody pervert. Probably can’t get it up for anything other than a bloody cripple.”
She’d muttered the insulting comment, but obviously meant for both of them to hear. Jaron wasn’t surprised. The woman had a spiteful aura. He’d noted the jealousy in her eyes whenever she looked at Grace.
“I’m sorry you had to hear that.”
“Hear what?” He turned a blinding smile on her as he shifted closer and closed in for the kill…
Coffee Time Romance Reviews – 4 cups
“I fell in love with Tuesday’s Child: Grace. Mina Carter tells a phenomenal tale that allows this reader to share in the couple’s passion, their hopes and dreams. This refreshing and delightful read captured this reader’s heart.” Cherokee, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More Read the review
Night Owl Romance Reviews – Rating 4
“Tuesday’s Child–Grace is a novella length story that surprised me with just how well-rounded it was. Carter however manages to balance the sexy tone of the book with characters who grow. Grace grows the most…Between the horrific accident that took the only way of life she ever wanted and her nasty cousin-companion, Grace had a lot to deal with. The end came as a surprise (or the timing of it at least), but I completely believed it. There was plenty of evidence to back it up throughout the story. And the very last paragraphs? Justice is sweet.” By reviewer Lexile