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Blood of the Maple

Maggie's Grove - 1

by

Dana Marie Bell

Dedication

To Mom, who makes a face every time she sees me eat sashimi, but encourages me to bring it to our family dinners anyway. Someday I’ll get you to try it, and you’ll see what the big deal is. Of course, we might have to raid Dad’s homemade wine first.

To Dad, who suggested I send some homemade wine to my mother-in-law because he noticed how much she loved it when she came to visit. I’m awarding plenty of brownie points for that, even though I’m taking a lot away. P.S.: The “old fart” remote control car the boys had tooting in my face has met with an unfortunate, yet predictable, staircase accident.

Finally, to Dusty, who still manages to sneak up and scare me even after twenty years together. I’m sorry, but laughing when I smack you in retaliation doesn’t make me want to stop. Neither does calling me Super Grover, even if I do hit like a girl. Chocolate, on the other hand, works wonders.

Acknowledgments

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:

Prologue

The California Desert, Sometime in the 1960s…

“You know, my friend told me you were a witch, but I didn’t know he meant it literally.”

Parker clutched the bars of his cage and stared at the hippie chick he’d shagged a few nights before. Damn, she’d been a sweet piece too, tasty on the inside and the outside. A rare combination and one he’d planned on sampling again before moving on. She had the biggest green eyes he’d ever seen and a mouth that could suck-start a motorcycle.

Too bad she’d taken exception to his dalliance with the daisy-crowned flower child. He’d been caught with his fangs down, and now the witch was going to exact some freaky revenge. From the way her huge cauldron bubbled, he wouldn’t be surprised if she tried to boil him alive.

“I worked pretty hard to get you into my bed.”

Parker blinked, unsure if he should be flattered or terrified.

Never mind. He knew—terrified. She stirred the mess in the cauldron, and it was all he could do not to scream like a girl. Okay, make that more terrified. He might be a vampire, hunter of the night and all-around badass, but a woman scorned was fucking scary.

“You did?”

“Mm-hmm.” She tossed something into the bubbling goo. The stench was foul beyond comprehension. What the hell had she put in there? And was it going to touch any part of him? There wasn’t enough tomato juice in the world to get that scent washed off.

“I’m flattered.” He remembered first catching sight of her dancing around a bonfire during one of the numerous parties his friends had thrown. She’d looked utterly edible. “I remember you dancing.”

She smiled like he’d handed her a gilded rose. “Yes!” She drifted by, her voice dreamy, her expression serene. “I called you to me. You couldn’t resist my allure.”

Someone needs to stop taking the brown acid. “Look, it was nice and all, but —”

“Nice!”

Parker’s ears were ringing. Damn, she could shriek.

“I let you into my temple, and you desecrated it!”

Oh now, hold on a moment. “You begged me to desecrate it!”

She pointed her white-handled knife at him. “You cheated on me.”

“You have to be in a relationship to cheat. All we did was party together. Horizontally.”

She sniffled, tears forming in her eyes. “I thought I meant something to you.”

Aw shit. Humor the crazy lady. “You did.” He rattled the bars, unsure why he couldn’t turn to mist and drift through them. The one time he tried he’d almost passed out from the pain. “You could.”

The eager grin she was suddenly sporting scared the bejesus out of him. “Yes. And to make sure it never happens again, I’ve come up with a plan.”

Uh-oh. “Excuse me?”

“Don’t worry, my love. You’ll never need to feed off anyone else again.”

“You know?” When he’d thought about being caught with his fangs down, he hadn’t meant it literally.

He’d done everything he was supposed to. The feeding should have been a vague memory of a sharp nip; the only physical reminder, a tiny hickey.

Greg could have warned him. If her lack of memory loss was due to her being a real witch, then he never would have fed from her in the first place, but Greg, a witch himself, had never once mentioned that they were immune.

Oh wait. Greg had warned him to “stay away from the crazy.” Too bad he’d listened to his prick instead.

“That you’re a Nosferatu?” She turned back to the cauldron. The smell coming from it was truly vile.

He winced. “I prefer vampire, myself.” Nosferatu made him think of that spindly, ugly-ass guy in the black-and-white film. He might not be Tony Curtis, but he sure as hell wasn’t that guy either.

There was that smile that had led him to her bed, the one that promised all sorts of forbidden delights. “Of course. I’ll remember that.”

“Thanks.” He gave his attention once more to the iron bars of his cage. He twisted and pulled, bending them, but not nearly enough.

Damn it. He’d been working on freeing himself for an hour or more. Normally breaking out of a simple iron cage wouldn’t be a problem, but she’d done something to it, something…magical? Whatever it was, the bars were extremely difficult to break. “So what do you have planned?”

“Nothing much. I’m going to change your diet.”

He froze. What she was suggesting was impossible. “What?”

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